This is the most exciting and heartbreaking book I have read in a long time. I can see why it is a classic.
This book is about a man, Charlie Gordon, in his 30's who has an IQ of 68 and a strong desire to learn to read and write. Through a class for retarded adults at a local college, he finds out that a study is going on to test an operation that is supposed to increase a person's IQ. The rest of the story is about the operation, study, and Charlie's participation in them. The format of the book is that of a journal through which, in Charlie's words, we learn of his depressing childhood and his reactions as he does indeed become smarter and can finally understand things about his life that were beyond him until the operation. It is a very uplifting and emotional story that is, even after all these years, (since 1956) still original and haunting. I recommend this book to everyone!
As a rule, if a book is on "required reading lists" I won't like it. This book is very much the exception to this rule. I read Flowers for Algernon the first time 35+ years ago when a Jr. high teacher suggested it. I'm sure I "got it" to some degree then but rereading it now I have to say it is one of the most poignant books on the human condition I have ever read.
If you have never read it do so, if it has been several years it is time for a reread.
Flowers for Algernon is written as personal journal entries, starting before the experiment and leading the reader through it and what happens afterwards.
The journal technique is quite effective in bringing the reader into the story and conveying Charlie's intelligence level, using spelling and grammar as superficial clues and the sophistication of Charlie's observations as a deeper clue to his current intelligence level. Over the course of the book, the writing slowly becomes more sophisticated, in tune with the underlying thoughts. I liked the balance between first-person immediacy and thoughtful retrospective that the format of a journal entry at the end of each day or two provides.
While this is clearly speculative fiction, the point of Flowers for Algernon isn't the technology that lets Charlie become more intelligent but rather how people react to him, both before and afterwards, as his perceptions of the world change. This is, in part, a sharp rebuke of the way that the mentally retarded are treated, but there are also interesting explorations of identity, friendship, and the results of revisiting one's past. There are several wonderfully memorable characters, particularly the free-living artist living next door.
Parts of this book are a bit painful to read, particularly Charlie's attempts to come to terms with his sex life, and the pacing does suffer from the expansion from a short story in a few places. The story also isn't easy; human cruelty and failings are sharply portrayed. But this is a classic of science fiction for well-deserved reasons, even though there isn't much here in the way of science. The reader's growing ability to understand Charlie and Charlie's attempts to understand himself touch on the exploration of alienness and human reactions to it that underpin so many great science fiction stories. Highly recommended.
A story of a human experiment -- tampering with human intelligence and a love triangle between two people. This story is utterly fascinating if you know the story behind the story. Flowers of Algernon was originally a short story that was translated into English. The character "Charlie" undergoes several operations upon his brain with some rather unexpected results that will make you laugh and cry.
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON made its first appearance in print as a short story which was rapidly and widely anthologized, and translated internationally. It received further acclaim as a memorable television drama, and was rapidly purchased for film/motion picture production. Then, enlarged and richly peopled, Daniel Keyes' haunting story became an award-winning novel - recipient of the Nebula Award for the Best Novel of the Year by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
This fascinating tale of a daring human experiment has been described as "a love triangle between two people," "a suspenseful, gripping story," and "a brilliant fantasy." It is all these things. It is one of the most strikingly original and engrossing novels of our time! Now, full-bodied and richly-peopled, FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON is the daring novel of a startling human experiment!
I first read Flowers when I was in 9th grade, and I am so glad that the school chose this title for us. It is very enlightening, and makes you think about things you maybe wouldn't normally. It delves into the mind of Charlie, a retarded man who is given the chance to try a miracle operation that would restore his intelligence from that of a very high end retarded man to a normal man. It is startling to imagine what you would do if you were in the shoes of any one of a myriad of characters fleshed out in this story. It is a must read for anyone seeking understanding of their fellow man.
There is no more moving book. No one should live a life without reading it. I read it for the first time when I was a teenager. I am now in my fifties and just read it with my son. It is just as good and has made a lasting impact on my life.
From the back: Flowers for Algernon made its first appearance as a short story which was rapidly and widely anthologized, and translated internationally. It received further acclaim asa memorable television drama, and as a motion picture production. Now, full-bodied and richly-peopled, Flowers for Algernon is the daring novel of a startling human experiment!
I sat down with this book one night before bed, expecting to read a few chapters before calling it a night. As others have mentioned, it is a little difficult to read at first due to Charlie's poor grammar, but I could not put it down! I ended up reading the entire book in one sitting.
This was a fantastic story and I am so glad I've finally had the opportunity to read it. I think this is one of those books that sticks with you and it has easily become one of my favorites!
A heartwrenching journal of the life of a retarded boy who became part of an experiment: a surgery which would allow him to learn and become extremely intelligent. They were convinced that it would work, because it had worked on the mouse, Algernon. This was one of those books I just could not lay down! I highly recommend it!!!
From the back of the book
Flowers for Algernon made it firts appearance as a short story which
as rapidly and widely anthologized, and translated international.
This fascinating tale of a daring human experiment has been described as " a love triangle between two people," a suspenseful, gripping story, " and a brilliant fanstasy." It is all these things. It is one of the most strikingly original and engrossing novels of our time!