Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review - Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers for Algernon
Author: Daniel Keye
Year: 1966
Page: 274 
Genre: Fiction - Young Adult

New to me author?
Read this author again?
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure:
Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. As the treatment takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?

First Sentence:
Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down waht I think and remembir and every thing that happins to me from now on.
Why did I pick this book? 

I forgot how I came to know about this book, probably saw it mentioned somewhere. I have never heard of it before, didn't know it's a classic. Didn't know there was a movie about it. But the premise sounded interesting to me and my ex-office mate said it was one of her favorite books, so I'd been looking forward to reading it!

My thoughts:

  • Finally, I think I found a character-study book that I like. But I think this book has more of a plot than other character study books. It was fascinating to see Charlie's transition from the beginning till the end. Written as a diary ("progress report") format, you felt like you were right there with Charlie through his journey. 
  • With the way the book was set up,  you also got to see how the others thought of Charlie through his change, and that might differ form how Charlie saw himself. I thought this added a dimension to Charlie's character - you got to see him from both 1st and 3rd person perspectives.
  • I wish the part about Charlie and his father could have been explored a little more
  • One sad part was how some people whom Charlie thought weren't his friends, really weren't, but he didn't realize it. Probably very realistic.
  • I like the ending and thought it was appropriate
  • I like the name Kinnian (Charlie's teacher's last name)
  • If I had read it in high school, I probably wouldn't appreciate it as much as I do now. This is labeled as a young adult book, but I think it is more a book for adults. I probably would have found it boring if I read it back then... plus all those questions the teachers made you answered for each book, it'd just have put me off :)
  • While I like this book, I don't love it thus 4 stars only. It made me think - what if there was such a technology - to make you smart? Would I have gone for this kind of experiment?
  • The author also has written another book - Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey - about how and why he wrote the story (and supposedly how he came up with the name "Algernon") - I have borrowed it from the library and couldn't wait to hear what he had to say! I love reading about authors' thought processes. It also included the original short story Flowers for Algernon was based on, so it'd be interesting to compare the short and long versions.


    "All the levels, Charlie, like steps on a giant ladder. And you'll climb higher and higher to see more and more of the world around you." (p72)

    Strange about learning; the farther I go the more I see that i never knew even existed. (p137)

    Rating: 4 Stars



    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading
    Young Adult


    1. I read "Flowers for Algernon" at least a couple times, but way back in high school. It wasn't require reading for my classes -- just a book I discovered and liked. I remember thinking it was so sad how Charlie was made fun of but that he didn't realize it. I really want to re-read this one again soon but probably will buy a new copy since my old copy is fragile and a mass-market paperback (harder on my older eyes).

    2. @Valerie - I think this is one of those books that you'll get something different out of it when you read it at different stage your life.

    3. I agree with you. I think you get something different everytime you read the book. I just feel the end of Charlie may well be like a possible end of me!

    4. @bibliojunkie - I think we all fear we'll lose our intelligence! It's like when I read those Alzheimer's books... I really hope nobody would get that...