Just the Facts: by S. J. Watson. 356 p. To be published June 1, 2011 by HarperCollins. Advanced copy provided electronically, courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.
Who Cares? Adult Suspense/Thriller
Not-so-Short Bio: (from Marketing copy) Every morning, Christine awakens beside a stranger in an unfamiliar bed. She sees a middle-aged face in the bathroom mirror that she does not recognize. And every morning, the man patiently explains that he is Ben, her husband, that she is forty-seven-years-old, and that an accident long ago damaged her ability to remember.
In place of memories Christine has a handful of pictures, a whiteboard in the kitchen, and a journal, hidden in a closet. She knows about the journal because Dr. Ed Nash, a neurologist who claims to be treating her without Ben’s knowledge, reminds her about it each day. Inside its pages, the damaged woman has begun meticulously recording her daily events—sessions with Dr. Nash, snippets of information that Ben shares, flashes of her former self that briefly, miraculously appear.
But as the pages accumulate, inconsistencies begin to emerge, raising disturbing questions that Christine is determined to find answers to. And the more she pieces together the shards of her broken life, the closer she gets to the truth . . . and the more terrifying and deadly it is.
Eyewitness Account: Reading this book was a little like watching Memento – I felt like I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time! From page one, I couldn’t put Before I Go to Sleep down. Not only does the book have a complex, fascinating plot, but the author succeeded in making me completely identify with the main character. I distrusted characters, nearly clawed my eyes in fear and panic when things didn’t seem to add up, and felt deep despair when Christine realized that she’d lost precious pieces of her life.
Although this book is clearly a Suspense/Thrill ride (and well done, for that!), I liked how it allowed Christine to explore ideas of identity, self, and fulfilment – would anyone want to live a life in which your memories reset every morning? Is such a life worth living? What kind of price does your family pay for that? What memories are worth re-learning and which are better left forgotten?
Dang good job, Watson! Thou must publish more books! (And congratulations to him on already landing a movie deal for this one).
Notable Quotes: I simply loved this exchange between Christine and her doctor -
“Keep your journal, Christine,” he said. “You still have it?”
I shook my head. “He burned it. That’s what caused the fire.”
Dr. Nash looked disappointed. “That’s a shame,” he said. “But it doesn’t really matter. Christine, you’ll be fine. You can begin another. The people who love you have come back to you.”
“But I want to have come back to them, too,” I said. “I want to have come back to them.”
Other Books Read by This Author: None – I believe this is a debut from S. J. Watson
★★★★★ Plot Development
★★★★☆ Writing Style
★★★★★ Original Idea
★★★★★ Page Turner
Just the Facts: by Peter Cunningham. 254 p. Published April 7, 2010 by GemmaMedia. Electronic copy provided courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.
Who Cares? Adult Historical Fiction
Short Bio: The story of Ismay Seston is told amid the tumultuous context of newly independent Ireland, grappling with the dilemmas of class conflict and World War II. The second half of her life is told first, and the book concludes with a short account of her life before marrying a fellow Anglo-Irish gentry whose family estate was also stripped by the Land Commission.
Eyewitness Account: Cunningham proved to have some pretty fancy plot development and writing skills in this novel! The second half of the book makes the first half an almost entirely different story, all foreshadowed with appropriate subtlety and almost none of which I anticipated. I loved reading about a period and setting that I knew almost nothing about – the beginning of civil unrest in Ireland as a country of lower-class Irishmen tried to reconcile with their Anglo-Irish upper-class gentry after gaining political independence from England. Ismay asks the tough questions that inform the discussion – is it fair to strip a family of land they’ve held for centuries? Is it fair that 95% of the land is owned by 3% of the population, most of which would shudder to call themselves “Irish”?
This is the second book I’ve read in a week that’s omitted quotation marks (Cunningham prefers em dashes) – is there a new editing trend I’m not aware of?
Although Ismay’s story is written in a beautiful voice, the character development left something to be desired (as sometimes happens when men write with a female voice) – Ismay felt a bit wooden for someone who was supposed to be so passionate and lively, and the other characters fell flat. Great characterization leaves you with sadness at the end of a book, as if you are saying goodbye to dear and beloved friends; having finished this book an hour ago, I can hardly tell you the names of the secondary characters, much less attach any sense of personality to them. Because of this, the love story pieces felt awkward and unbelievable (not to mention that one character tells another ”I love you” after talking to them briefly twice? Really?).
Although not a 5-star book, the writing style, plot and historical setting make this novel well worth the read.
“. . .but at least then I would have him alone, which is to say, a man without pretensions, in need of love, who stayed at home and close to me, who came out the cliffs for walks and who listened as well as spoke.”
“We’ve only got one life. You’ve got to live your dreams. No one else is going to do that for you.”
“The love I known had both buoyed me and drowned me, for there were times when I knew I had lived rarely.”
Other Books Read by This Author: None.
★★★★☆ Plot Development
★★★★☆ Writing Style
★★★☆☆ Original Idea
★★★★☆ Page Turner