Flowers for Algernon was first published as a short story, but soon received wide acclaim as it appeared in anthologies, as a television special, and as an award-winning motion picture, Charly. In its final, expanded form, this haunting story won the Nebula Award for the Best Novel of the Year. Through Jeff Woodman's narration, it now becomes an unforgettable audio experience.
©1966 Daniel Keyes; (P)1998 Recorded Books, LLC
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Beautifully written classic tale of Charlie Gordon, a man with mental retardation who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to cure his “condition.” Charlie is mentally and physically abused by his mother and teased for the entirety of his 32 years. He enters into therapy, and an accelerated learning program, attending classes and racing mazes with the first subject, Algernon the mouse. Keeping a diary, Charlie tracks his current progress and remembers the painful details of his previous memories with new clarity.
The story questions the attitudes and sickening treatment of people with special needs and the isolation felt from being on the outside looking in. I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s, “Pygmalion.” Eliza Doolittle, like Charlie, becomes a subject in a test to prove those believed inferior can transform to the norms of society. The question ignored is when emotional immaturity doesn’t catch up quickly enough with newfound intelligence and the pitfalls therein. The human being is ignored for the advancement of science. Charlie also struggles to find meaning and purpose. All of these themes are explored in depth by Keyes and the narrator is phenomenal; moving back and forth with spot on cadence and dialect, perfectly emoting the evolution and regression of Charlie.
The story and narration were superb and the plot was engrossing. After listening to about 60+ nonfiction books I have started to dip my toes into fiction--particularly science fiction. I remember listening to a classmate give a review of this book in a high school English class and decided to use one of the 'ol two credits on this one. Smart decision. Even though I knew the ending before I hit the play button, the journey--as any good book reveals--is more important that mere facts.
The ending will hit you.
Although written in 1966 based upon a short story published in 1959, nothing about this book is dated, hackneyed or trite. In fact, little would need to be changed for it to pass as a recently published novel set in the 1960s. The current Wikipedia entry for this book notes three main themes: treatment of the mentally disabled, the conflict between intellect and emotion or happiness, and how events in the past can influence a person later in life. Keyes does effectively develve into each of these issues, particuarly the last. However, for me, the deeper issue is Keyes' subtle, unstated questions about the value of all life, particularly the lives of those with little awarness of their own worth. In addition, Jeff Woodman's narration was superlative. His voice, inflection, cadence, etc. gave life and meaning to Charlie's character in a way that complemented and added to Keyes' writing. I listen to audiodbooks about 20 hours each week, and few books have affected me like this one in months. Give it a try.
this is deservedly a classic. there is much to think about regarding intelligence and enhancement. if you value what makes you an individual this novel will grip you and haunt you. one of my all time favorites.
I saw the play of this story years ago but could not remember the plot so I decided to listen to the book. I will never think about intelligence and society's perceptions the same way again. Perhaps because the novel is a much more in-depth exploration of Charly's psyche, the book stuck with me in a way the play did not. In the beginning the stuttering prose is frustrating, but it is such a necessary component of the novel and the gradual transformation to the point where Charly is speaking over your head sneaks up on you. Charly's reactions to the world change as his understanding of the world changes, and the reader can't help but reflect on the themes on a personal level.
I have loved this story ever since I saw the movie version, "Charly," with Cliff Robertson. So I was looking forward to reading "Flowers for Algernon." The audiobook did not disappoint. The narrator did an excellent job of adapting his voice to the many characters in the novel, which enhanced the listening experience. The story, which was originally a short story and was expanded by the author into a full-length novel, was as moving as the movie had been. All-in-all this was an enjoyable audioibook.
I first read this book when I was a kid--thanks to lots of older brothers and sisters bringing their books home from upper grades--and it was the first time I'd ever read a book that made me cry. Hearing Jeff Woodman's brilliant character reading and narration made it come alive in the way it had when I read it so many years ago. His presentation is authentic New Yorker and hauntingly childlike and tinged with biting sarcasm when appropriate. The net effect of this audiobook is less of a read and more of a life-changing experience...which is how it was the first time I read the book.
It occurs to me that Flowers For Algernon has shaped the person I've become more than I'd ever remembered.
And memory is, after all, what this story is all about.
I have heard about this book many times but have never read it or watched one of the movies or TV shows based on it, but I decided it was about time that I did. Written originally as a short story in 1958 and later in 1966 as a novel it is an amazing tale of a mentally challenged man who science turns into a genius with an incalculably high IQ even though he still has the emotions of a child.
As narrator Jeff Woodman brings this story to life, he does an incredible job presenting Charlie through his many changes and growth along with the people around him that I regularly forgot that only one actor was conveying the story. Not many narrators have done that for me and this performance is the best I have heard in an audio book so far.
This was one of those books I told myself I'd read someday. I'm glad I finally did. It is a nice, though now interestingly dated, story written from an unusual perspective. It gives you a chance to examine your empahy as well. I don't want to spoil the plot for you, so I won't say much more.
I will say if you enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, you'll find this somewhat similar and likely will enjoy Flowers for Algernon.
I commute about an hour each way to work and listen to audio books enroute. Sometimes I don't want to get out of my car because I'm at a really good place!
Even though you know how the story will end, it's a wonderful journey getting there. You feel his frustration at the beginning and end and you cringe at his sense of superiority in the middle.
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