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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes
This is my 1960's Decade Challenge book. I've wanted to read it ever since 1968 when I saw the movie Charly that was based on this book. The movie starred Cliff Robertson in the starring role as Charly Gordon, a mentally retarded man in his 30's. I thought Robertson did an awesome job. Now that I've read the book, my next movie from Netflix is Charly. It will be interesting to see how the movie and book compare. My gosh, the movie was nearly 40 years ago (and I'm only 28. How does that happen?!)

Charly has an IQ of 70, but he is anxious to learn and works very hard in his classes for the mentally retarded. He has a job at a bakery running errands and cleaning. It's a job he loves and there are people there who are his friends. All this is about to change when Charly is selected for an experimental operation that may raise his intelligence. The same procedure has been very successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon.

The book is written as a series of Project Reports by Charly himself, starting before the operation and continuing for 7-8 months afterwards. The first entries capture Charly's innocence and fear and his desire to be smart. The entries are fraught with misspelled words and reveal Charly's low intellect. As the operation proves to be a success we follow Charly's rapid rise in intelligence. He peaks with an IQ of 185, above that of the scientists behind the experiment.

Charly's emotional growth does not keep pace with his intellectual development. Memories from his childhood were now accessible to him in vivid detail and he has to try to deal with them. There are other things he's not emotionally ready to handle, such as relationships, especially those with women.

I'm glad I read Flowers for Algernon and highly recommend it. If you're looking for a mild science fiction that's interesting and quick to read, with emotional charge, this is a perfect choice.

In addition tocounting for the By the Decades Challenge, Flowers for Algernon also counts for the Banned Books and the TBR challenge.

17 comments:

danielle said...

I know this book has been around for some time now and I have seen it on the shelves at the bookstore, but I have never picked it up. I'm not even entirely sure that I really knew what it was about--now I will have to find a copy!

Cam said...

One of my book groups read this a few months ago. I was surprised how much I liked it and that it was nominated for a HUGO award in 1967. I thought it was remarkable how the 1st person narrator changed so realistically; Keyes had to write in several voices as Charlie's mental age changed.

Literary Feline said...

I read this one many years ago as assigned reading for school. Your review brought back memories! I remember the story really touched me back then and it's one I've never completely forgotten.

jenclair said...

I loved this book. It has been many years since I've read it, but I've thought of it frequently in the last year or so as my father has Alzheimer's and is losing so much, so quickly now.

Mellowdrama said...

Hi there,
It has been nearly a decade since I last heard of this short story - I had stumbled across it in a compilation and fell in love with it. It is such a poignant tale, it brought tears to my eyes and I vowed that I would look for more by the author, unfortunately I never came across anything else by him! Thanks for sharing this, it certainly brought back memories!

hellomelissa said...

i read this when i was very young and remember being profoundly moved by it... mostly at the idea we could "cure" mental disabilities. it brings up so many pertinent moral issues.

Kailana said...

One of my favourite books ever. It's on my ten books I can't live without list even.

teabird17 said...

I read this book awhile ago, and never forgot it - so important to remember that intellectual and emotional intelligence/growth are not the same! I liked your review -

Cassie said...

I think I remember reading an exerpt from this in school and I remember thinking it was really interesting. I think I'll read this someday.

Amanda said...

I read this book in my 8th grade English class about 11 years ago. I definitely think it's time for a reread.

Stephanie said...

Oh....I read this in school and LOVED it!! Great book! It was one that stuck with me for a long time!

SuziQoregon said...

I read this ages and ages ago - I remember really liking it. Might have to schedule a re-read.

Petunia said...

Everyone makes it sound so good. I have put it down in my TBR list. Thanks for the review.

Petunia said...

And I forgot to add, thanks for the Last Line bookmark and the book darts. I use them everyday.

Bookfool said...

I'm going to have to put this one on one of my future challenge lists. I keep looking at it and thinking, "Later." Thanks for an excellent review!

Anonymous said...

its such a dumb and stpid book..so terrible

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