Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson
An image came then. Claire and I joking that we would never marry. ‘Marriage is for losers!’ she was saying as she raised a bottle of red wine to her lips, and I was agreeing, though at the same time I knew that one day I would be her bridesmaid, and she mine, and we would sit in hotel rooms, dressed in organza, sipping champagne from a flute while someone did our hair….
‘There are a couple of photos here.’
They were wedding pictures, though not formal shots; these were blurred and dark, taken by an amateur. By Ben, I guessed. I approached the first one cautiously.
She was as I had imagined her. Tall, thin. More beautiful, if anything. She was standing on a clifftop, her dress diaphanous, blowing in the breeze, the sun setting over the sea behind her. I put the picture down and looked through the rest. In some she was with her husband – a man I didn’t recognize – and in others I had joined them, dressed in pale-blue silk, looking only slightly less beautiful. It was true; I had been a bridesmaid.
observations: A very much talked-about book, and understandably so – and also a remarkable debut. Right at the end, the explanations and tidy-up are done in quite a plonking way, but that just makes the reader realize that this has been very much not a typical first novel, it is mostly written in a very assured way. If you’re the one person who doesn’t know the setup: Christine wakes up every morning unable to remember most things about her life, she has to find out all over again why she is there, and who she is with. She is keeping a notebook and meeting a doctor, but why does her husband not know about that? Is there something more going on - and whom can she trust? This reader felt the first half could have been cut considerably, that it was quite long and dull and (in its nature) extremely repetitive, and it was hard to care about the characters. But then - after those early longueurs, the final third is completely gripping, you couldn’t have paid me to put it down before the finale.
Links up with: wedding pictures all over the blog – click on the label below.
The picture is a fashion photo by the fabulous Toni Frissell, from 1948. It is in the Library of Congress collection. You can see another of her extraordinary pictures in this entry.