Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

People often started their reviews by saying this book so-and-so made them cry. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t cry for a book.

Little did I know that I would begin my review now by saying this book made me cry! And not just a tear or two, but more like weeping for 5 minutes. At least TWO times! The last time I cried because of a book was probably The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I read in 2004.

Charlie was born retarded. He lives his entire life with not much more than broken memories and haziness. But Charlie wants to be smart. He knows he’s lacking something and that he wants that something so he can be like everybody else. One day an opportunity arrives. A research facility needs a human guinea pig. If the experiment is successful, Charlie would become.. normal, though of course, there’s a chance that it might fail. Charlie doesn’t care. He’s going to do anything to be smarter.

I have a little confession to make. For me, it’s very important to be smart. As a kid I was obsessed with IQ tests. I started doing them since I was three. I knew I wasn’t a genius, but my IQ was high enough to be, say, the highest in class, and in general, to get away with a lot of things. Some people might be the funny one, the pretty one, the talkative one, the kind one. But me, I need to be the smart one. Most of the time this thought lays deep at my subconscious mind, but at certain times when I feel my brain fails me big time, I could get pretty depressed, and the worms are out in the open. What if I’m just not that smart? What would I be? WHAT IF? –I would heap on my despair, sink in my misery.

I could relate with Charlie in many ways. I always feel the need to be smart. I understand how the little child in us always needs to get our parents’ approval. Look at me Ma! I am smart! I am somebody!

Boy, did I cry!

The book is told in a series of Charlie’s personal journal, so we could see how he progresses and gets smarter, then later finds out how things were never what he thought they were when he lived in his blurry state.

You know how sometimes even a good book slows its pace at some parts? It never happened with this book. The pace was good from beginning til end. Every page was a joy to read. Not only that, it’s packed with emotional punch. One thing for sure, I would never see a “slow” person the same way ever again.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. To anybody! I love you Daniel Keyes! Thank you for your contribution to this world! (sorry, that just gushed out of me) I can’t believe my first two books of the year were so 5 stars! I have a good feeling for this year.Daniel Keyes

1966, 216 pp

First line
Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.

1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel


“.. Miss Kinnian says dont worry spelling is not suppose to make sence.” ~ p24

“Now I understand one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” ~ p50

Book Awards IV (book #2), Read the Book See the Movie (book #1)

Also reviewed by
Loved it! — Farm Lane Books Blog | Savidge Reads | Novel Insight | Reading Matters
Not quite. — Books for Breakfast

charlyCharly (1968)

I had reservation about watching the movie, because the book was just SO good. There’s no way the movie can even compare. But I saw Cliff Robertson won Oscar for Best Actor in 1969 for the film, so I gave it a chance.

Well, I was right. It’s not horrible, but it’s nothing compared to the book. In the movie we lose a lot of Charlie’s inner thoughts, which are the main point of the book. A lot of his external and internal conflicts were cut as well, leaving mainly his love interest.

I would give the movie a pass.

Rating: 6/10

Apart from my reading challenges, I read the book (and watch the movie) to participate on Carl’s Sci Fi Experience 2010 (run in the month of January and February). Are you participating? You still have time if you want to! :)

After Flowers for Algernon I definitely have a lot more confidence in trying the Sci-Fi genre. A few years ago I told the person who gave me the book that “I don’t read science fiction.” But when we discussed some books that we’ve read, I mentioned The Time Traveller’s Wife and Kindred. He quickly pointed out that I do read sci-fi. Sci-fi does not mean all outer-space and machines. I agree that we really shouldn’t pigeon-hole books into a certain genre, and avoid them as a result. Imagine what great books that we could be missing out! I do plan to read more of what is called sci-fi books in the future. Nebula and Hugo award winners would be a great start. At the moment I’m thinking Stranger in a Strange Land.

Can you think of any books that you are passionate about that fall into the sci-fi genre?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

38 thoughts on “Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes”

  1. Well I am thrilled that you loved this book as much as you did. I had very much the same thoughts on you at the start of the book thinking ‘as if this will upset me’ and boy oh boy did it! It is an amazing novel and one that took me by complete and utter suprise. I wonder what the next book is that will have that affect on me will be?
    .-= [Simon (Savidge Reads)´s last blog: Precious – Sapphire] =-.

    1. Yea I knew it was gonna be good because your book group has loved it, but I didn’t expect to love it that much! It’s one kind of a book, isn’t it?!

  2. I really identify with what you say about having a stake in being smart! I read Flowers for Algernon in sixth grade and found it so upsetting – I had nightmares of waking up stupider than I had been the day before. So I haven’t reread it since then, although I really should. I think I would appreciate it more now.
    .-= [Jenny´s last blog: The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carleton] =-.

    1. ** SPOILER warning ** Yes the part when he started losing it was very sad, and kinda scary. I would probably have nightmares too if I had read this book when I was a kid!

  3. I was secretly anticipating your review since knowing that you were reading this, from your blog’s side bar. And you didn’t disappoint:) ** SPOILER WARNING ** You know the part that really made me cry – twice, yes, I read that part – was after Charlie’s intelligence has regressed, and he walks into his evening class to take his usual seat, puts up his hand, and forgetting (you know who was standing in front of the class, don’t you?)…okay, I got to stop before I tear:P ** end of SPOILER **

    I was very surprised then that this is categoried as Sci-fic, though it touches on moral issues in science.

    One other Sci-fic novel I was once passionate about was John Wyndham’s “”The Chrysalids”, a branch of Sci-Fic called “Logical Fantasy” really makes you think about the future of human race…

    Personal recommendation of another novel that made me cry nearly every page: To Live by Chinese novelist Yu Hua, though it isn’t very well translated.

    1. ** SPOILER warning ** mrdes– Sorry I need to put some spoiler warnings on your comment, just in case people read it :). That’s exactly the part that made me fall apart. My gosh it was so sad. I started sobbing a few pages near the ending, and just weeping for a good few minutes after the last page of the book. Another one was when he meets his mother. Argh. It was heartbreaking. ** end of SPOILER **

      I think book genre is mostly a marketing division, and this book just somehow got to be in the sci-fi category. I don’t how they work it out really. But I do know now that I want to break the barrier and not have any negative preconception of genre. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll watch out for them. Gosh I didn’t know there’s a sci-fi branch called logical fantasy. That sounds even more exclusive. I heard of Yu Hua because of Brothers. Both that and To Live look interesting.

  4. I read this book so many times that my copy is almost tattered (and yes, it never failed to make me cry). It has been years, though, since the last time. I probably should re-read it again soon — maybe when I feel like I need a good cry. If I’m going to cry, I want it to be because the book is so good, you know??
    .-= [Valerie´s last blog: FreeVerse: “War Symphony” by Chen Li] =-.

    1. Oh wow. I’m so glad to know that you loved it that much Valerie. I don’t generally look for a cry be it good or not :), but I can see myself re-reading Charlie in the future.

  5. I loved this book! I found Time Traveller’s Wife more emotional, as I didn’t actually cry during Algernon, but I did get close. It is very rare for me to cry, so it did well to get that lump in my throat.

    I was always the smart one in class too, but I’m not sure that had any impact on my love for this book.

    I haven’t watched Charly, but have got it queued on my DVD rental subscription. I’m sorry to hear that it wasn’t that good, but I’m still curious.

    I’m still on the look out for great Sci-Fi. I have heard Enders Game and The Sparrow are good choices, but I haven’t got round to them yet. Let me know if you find any!
    .-= [Jackie (Farm Lane Books)´s last blog: The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery] =-.

    1. The Time Traveler’s Wife was emotional in a different way for me, but both touched my soft spots!

      I was probably a bit unfair on the movie, because I loved the book so much. I just imagined how people who never read the book would watch the movie and all the things they would miss. But for you who have read it, it would be nice to see the adaptation, if not only to satisfy your curiosity. I would love to know what you think about it.

      I have heard of Enders Game and The Sparrow, sort of, though I don’t know what they’re about yet. I’m glad that you’re on the lookout, so I look forward to sharing more sci fi books with you!

  6. When did I read this book? Five years ago? At any rate, I LOVED it, too! It is sad and beautiful and classic. Your review makes me want to reread it, tears and all. (Now excuse me, I see that one of your commenters, Simon, read Precious–I need to read his review!)
    .-= [Suko´s last blog: Motley Wednesday] =-.

  7. Okay. You’ve convinced me that this book deserves to be bought and loved, instead of simply being borrowed and returned.

    I’ve only ever cried (actually cried!) once while reading, and that was S.E.Hinton’s The Outsiders. I so so so need to read this.

    Gald you’re having a great start to the year. =)

    1. Michelle, I’ve never heard of The Outsiders apart from you, but I’ll keep it in mind. I think you’ve mentioned it on your blog before.

      Yes I do think the book is worth buying and keeping. My copy is a battered old thing. I imagine it has been loved and gone through many hands. I’m not sure if I will ever buy a new one, but I know I will keep the old one a treasure.

  8. I barely remember reading Flowers for Algernon in high school. I don’t think I cried, though, probably because it was assigned reading. I did bawl through the end of The Time Traveler’s Wife, though.
    .-= [softdrink´s last blog: Brooklyn] =-.

  9. I read this one in highschool and remembered really enjoying it – very sad, although it didn’t make me cry. If you liked this one, I highly recommend Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (which is also a movie, so you could include it as part of this challenge). It’s even more heartbreaking… just the thought of it is making me tear up!
    .-= [Steph´s last blog: “The Bookshop” by Penelope Fitzgerald] =-.

  10. I really really liked this book. I have only seen the movie the one time years ago, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. I have also read the play adaption of this, but it was a few years ago as well.
    .-= [Kailana´s last blog: Graphic Novel Day] =-.

    1. Kailana– I heard about the play adaptation. I’m not sure how that would work, but I’m willing to see it if I have the chance!

Leave a Reply