The RedeemerHarry Hole investigates a mistaken assassination
Before I Go to Sleep-Author Note
Memories define us, so who are we if all of ours are gone?
This is the central question in Before I Go to Sleep. I began writing the book after reading about a man called Henry Molaison who underwent surgery when he was 26 and lost his ability to form new memories. From that moment on he lived in the past. Every day, he woke believing it was 1953. Every day, he thought he was still 26 years old. Every day, he had to be reintroduced to the people that cared for him, as if he had never met them before. He was 82 when he died.
In Before I Go to Sleep I try to imagine what that must have been like. But, while Molaison was an inspiration, it is fiction. It is not his story. Instead it is the story of Christine, a woman with no memory, a woman who relies totally on the people around her and the man who loves her. A woman who is forced to question not only everything she is told, but everything she believes about herself. A woman whose truth, when it begins to emerge, is not what she might have expected.
It’s a thriller, a mystery, a search for truth. You will learn about Christine’s life as she does. You will realize the truth of her situation as she does. But Before I Go to Sleep is also about love, about identity, about growing older. It’s a book about the stories we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our lives. And in writing it I realized I was asking the most terrifying question of all. What do you have left, when you have lost yourself?
S J Watson
Before I Go to Sleep
The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don’t know where I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to get home.
I have spent the night here. I was woken by a woman’s voice— at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then realized she was reading the news and I was hearing a radio alarm—and when I opened my eyes found myself here. In this room I do not recognize.
My eyes adjust and I look around in the near-dark. A dressing gown hangs off the back of the closet door—suitable for a woman, but for one much older than I am—and some dark-colored trousers are folded neatly over the back of a chair at the dressing table, but I can make out little else. The alarm clock looks complicated, but I find a button and manage to silence it.
It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me and realize I am not alone. I turn around. I see an expanse of skin and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and gray, I think, but also married. Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed.
I wonder where the wife is. Do I need to worry about her arriving back at any moment? I imagine her standing at the other side of the room, screaming, calling me a slut. A medusa. A mass of snakes. I wonder how I will defend myself, if she does appear. The guy in the bed does not seem concerned, though. He has turned over and snores on.
I lie as still as possible. Usually I can remember how I get into situations like this, but not today. There must have been a party, or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty wasted. Wasted enough that I don’t remember anything at all. Wasted enough to have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his back.
I fold back the covers as gently as I can and sit on the edge of the bed. First, I need to use the bathroom. I ignore the slippers at my feet—after all, fucking the husband is one thing, but I could never wear another woman’s shoes—and creep barefoot onto the landing. I am aware of my nakedness, fearful of choosing the wrong door, of stumbling in on a lodger, a teenage son. Relieved, I see the bathroom door is ajar and go in, locking it behind me.
I sit, use the toilet, then flush it and turn to wash my hands. I reach for the soap, but something is wrong. At first I can’t work out what it is, but then I see it. The hand gripping the soap does not look like mine. Its skin is wrinkled, the nails are unpolished and bitten to the quick and, like that of the man in the bed I have just left, the third finger wears a plain gold wedding ring.
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