Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Here we have a psychological thriller with a unique premise: Christine has suffered a brain injury that erases her memory almost completely every evening when she goes to sleep. So each morning, she wakes up unaware of where she is, or who is sleeping next to her (poor, forgotten husband). She has to re-learn her entire life. Unfortunately, this also means that Christine is easy to manipulate--who can she really trust if she never remembers anyone from day to day? She finds a journal that she's begun keeping with the help of her doctor, and realizes that her life may be very different than what is being presented to her.
While the suspense and twists in this book are intense (as expected), for me, they were slowed down quite a bit by Christine's journaling style (which is how much of the book is narrated). For someone who has to furtively write in her journal each night before her husband catches her doing it, she writes in such flowy, painstaking detail. This felt disingenuous and made it hard for me to find her believable as a character. However, the story itself is delightfully convoluted and will get your heart rate up (even though I did figure out the "bad guy" a good bit before he/she was actually revealed).
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Grosset & Dunlap, 1897
The most famous vampire story! I'd been saving this book as a spooky October read for years, and finally got around to it. It was well-worth the wait, as this was a perfect novel for this time of year. If you're unfamiliar, Dracula is the tale of how Jonathan & Mina Harker discover, and attempt to take down, the wily vampire Count Dracula, along with their mentor, Van Helsing, and a few brave friends. There's garlic and wooden stakes and bats and a castle in Transylvania! How can you go wrong?!?! The story is told through letters, diary entries, telegrams, and journals written by the main characters. I loved this format, as it gave the narrative a more modern, fast-paced feel than its publication date would have you expect. I was a little annoyed by how Mina Harker is treated as a female character (Stoker alternately builds her up as a smart, independent woman, then breaks her down as the male characters keep her out of the loop in order to protect her delicate lady-brain), but otherwise this book was fantastic. Do yourself a favor and put this one on your Halloween reading list!
(Has anyone seen the film adaptation of this from the early 90s? From what I can see, it looks like Coppola kind of massacred the plot. Also, Keanu Reeves? Srsly?)
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
This story is told by Joan Castleman, in her mid-60s and wife of the (fictional) famous novelist, Joe Castleman. It's immediately clear that Joan is a tad bitter about her life these days. As she flies to Finland with Joe to a ceremony in his honor, she flashes us back to their early days of courtship and marriage. By the end of this quick 200-ish page read, you have a REALLY good understanding of why Joan is disgruntled.
This was my first Meg Wolitzer novel, and I was beyond pleased. The writing is fantastic: snappy, beautiful, intelligent, and humorous, all at once. While the title left me thinking that the purpose of the novel was a character study of Joan-as-wife, I soon realized that Wolitzer was also making some interesting statements about the "wife" role in general: what it symbolizes, its value within a family, and how much some women give of themselves when they take on the title. There was even a surprising twist at the end. I'm impressed with everything that Wolitzer was able to pack into such a short book, and I can't wait to read more of her work.
What was your best read of October?