Paul's Reviews > Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
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Mar 13, 2012

it was amazing
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Progris riport:

This is one of my all time favourite books, up there with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Dead Zone and Small Gods (Terry Pratchett), and I think in some respects it's because of the emotional impact of these novels that has made them indelible in my mind.

I read the short story originally, years a go in high school, in a tatty old book of American short stories (which I'm sure I still have somewhere), the only other story within that I remember being one by Ray Bradbury (something about a man walking down a street in the evening of a future suburb and being accosted by the police).

Anyway, the Keyes story really affected me, and when I discovered, through Orion's SF Masterworks series, that there was a full length novel expanding the idea, I couldn't wait to read it.

It is by turns funny, sad, heart-breaking, horrific in places and ultimately extremely moving. Although I find that the middle part of the book stalls a little, whilst Charlie has gained his 'zenith' of intellectual capacity, it is the parts that bookend the novel that come alive for me. The unknowing innocence at the beginning, where we feel pity and love for him, and anger at the bullying he receives, although he can't see it that way, to the fall at the end, where he knows he is slipping but can't halt it, unable to regain that purely innocent state from before, but but still with the limitations. This is where it is at its most heart-breaking, as we journey with him in this sad decline. It could almost be read as a metaphor for alzheimers or dementia. I suppose it could also be taken broadly as a metaphor for life, in that once we experience something, we can never go back to the way we were before. Something always is fundamentally changed in us, for better or worse.

This book deserves to be read by everyone.

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