Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Second Life - SJ Watson

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For once, the second book is better than the debut.

SJ Watson's Before I go to Sleep is a much talked about and well read book. I reckon its popularity is more so after its film adaptation that had big names like Colin Firth in it. However, as is the case with first success, the reviews to the second book was not as good as the first one.

On the contrary, I was a trifle disappointed with the debut work. Perhaps the hype got to me. The book jacket was enthralling - about a woman who recovered her memory each morning only to lose it at the end of the day. But I found that the book jacket was more promising than the story itself.

However, in the second book, the story seemed very ordinary. But what makes it interesting is the way it has been moulded into a splendid story.


Julia is worried. She has been raising her sister's son Connor as her own with her surgeon husband. Now her sister wants the boy back. Julia is anxious but then it spirals to another level when she learns of her sister's death in an alleyway in Paris.

Keen to find out the reason, she then delves into her sister Kate's life with the help of her roommate Anna. Julia discovers her sister's online identity and decides to plunge into the world of online dating to find her sister's murderer.

Julia enters the dark world of internet relationships and in the process of discovering the murderer, is caught in a complex web of deceit that threatens the tranquility of her domestic life.

What works:
  • The crisp narrative style. At the outset, we are told of Julia's predicament, reference to her past. Pieces of information are thrown in and the reader gobbles up the morsels in eager anticipation. 
  • The reader is not disappointed. Slowly and steadily a menacing, troubling atmosphere builds up.
  • There is the excitement of something forbidden, the delicious feeling when wrong feels right, the ecstasy and then the after effects.
  • The character of Julia is flawed. She is no perfect wife or mother. She is trying to put things right but ends up right in the middle of it.
  • Although sex is an important element, it is not allowed to rule the story. In other hands, it could have easily turned into erotic fiction or soft porn. I like the sophisticated manner in which it is handled. There are minimal words and the imagination is allowed to do the rest instead of graphic descriptions. Watson has used the tool very skilfully indeed.
  • The suspense is so good as we discover with Julia, the identity of her sister's murderer. The last 100 pages are a delight and like others, I ended up turning the last page in a bid to find out more. However, I loved the way she ended the story, leaving the reader to work it out.
So there is sex, suspense and a story - great combination.

What doesn't:
  • It worked very well for me. However I haven't read 50 shades of grey. For those who have, they may not find it as original or as good. 

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