Book Review – Flowers for Algernon

18373Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

Genre: science fiction, adult

Read: 9th September 2015

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star 5

SUMMARY

With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

REVIEW

OMG, OMG, this book is AMAZING!

This book is why I love sci-fi. It is pure speculation about the future and science which delves into the human condition in a heart-wrenching way that will make you reach for it time and again. I don’t care that I was crying by the end – this book gave me so many strong feelings, has gently imparted important gems of wisdom and seeds of compassion, and above all, has turned me into a better person for reading it. Many books touch us but there are few books that dig deep and take root in our hearts. This one is such a book for me. And THAT is why I love being a reader. 😀

Charlie Gordon is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. Algernon, the lab mouse, is such a great mirror for him, and I love that the book is titled for him and not the human character. When you read it you’ll know what I’m talking about; I don’t wish to spoil anything for you. Just make sure you get the extended version of the book, not the censored version meant for children.

Charlie starts out as a 30 year old man with an IQ of 68 who volunteers (better said, is chosen) for a experimental procedure to increase his intelligence – like the one done on Algernon. The man hopes he’d be able to write better after this procedure, to become smart so people will like him more. Through lab reports he has to write (with great struggle at the beginning of the experiment) we follow his life as the changes begin to take effect. For the first time he has to deal with the past, the present, and his future. Learning more about the world around him has unexpected consequences, moreso due to reemerging memories of his family, but also for the myriad of reactions other characters have due to his increasing intelligence.

The first person narration gets you in the gut – Charlie has a wonderful voice. He’ll charm you. You’ll care what happens to him, you’ll follow the changes closely, so the memories of his childhood will be an even greater contrast to his present situation, as much as they helped shape it. You’ll see.

The book deals with themes of mental disabilities, trauma, prejudice, morality, family dynamics, but also violence, alcohol, and sex, so I know where the censure came in when someone pushed for the book to be read in elementary schools in the USA. It is a book that deserves to be read, but read in its entirety, I’d say. The temptation to give it to younger readers is understandable, but you can’t cut out the darker parts of human life. Read the extended version.

Books like this one are great teachers and companions, and I’m so going to recommend it at any possible opportunity. 😀 Stars above, how didn’t I hear about it before?!

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