Posted by: Ele Quigan | March 24, 2012

“Before I go to sleep” S J Watson

Back to reading for the first time in months, I’ve managed to plough through two books in two separate yet both intense reading sessions.

Before I go to sleep, is basically “Memento”. A fantastic film starring my second favourite australian (after Hugo Weaving) Guy Pearce (and that’s mostly cause he was amazing in “Priscilla, Queen of the desert”). Imagine person who loses their memory every single evening, and has to piece together their background every morning.

Oh yeah, also sounds quite similar to the ‘lite’ comedy “50 First Dates”.

Frustratingly, I managed to unpick the plot after the first chapter, so no OMG WHAT WAS THAT TWIST I JUST READ for me. It was a good read, I can’t really complain – quite fast moving, and a relatively simple story (yet wholly unbelievable really in hindsight).

I don’t really know what I was expecting from it, maybe something with a little more depth and surprise? I’m dancing around actually mentioning anything of the plot lest I ruin it for anyone else randomly googling whether they should buy this novel…

Still in saying that the idea of forgetting everything you know every evening is more than a little scary. I get memory blanks occasionally, particularly when I’ve way too much booze which I’m ashamed to admit that even at 30, still happens about once every 6 – 8 months. Waking up slightly disorientated with an absolute marker of the last thing you actually remember is such an odd feeling, hard to explain to people who this doesn’t happen to. The other half has an elephant memory, which of course is useful when trying to unpick the fragmented threads of the previous evening.

Memory is an unusual thing, the more I read about it, the less I feel that it’s something concrete and tangible – but something that can be amended and changed over time, changing paths and thoughts somewhat. Or maybe that’s getting older – that you soften against things that at the time were horrific, or hilarious, and the impact of what they were suddenly not quite the same.

Years and years ago, I attended a summer holiday student thing at Otago university in Dunedin – where I did some of the very basic activities that first year psychology students do. One of the things I remember most about it is the dissection of a sheep brain (yes gross, I get it) where we were dividing the key parts of the brain – and in particular finding the hippocampus. I remember looking at it, being in awe of the human brain, nerve endings, and this piece of splodge in front of me – that is so critical to your life and the choices that you make.

While much is made of amnesia in film/tv/and books like this, I can’t imagine what it must be like to slowly lose your grip on your past – and to even understand why some memories stay yet others fade so quickly. While a book like this doesn’t present it in a realistic light, still makes me wish I could write all my favourite memories down in the hope they stay precious and light forever…


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