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Book Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Yet another audiobook choice.  I’m really enjoying listening to books and crossing them off my TBR list – Might as well make that drive time productive!!


Flowers for Algernon

Click image for the Goodreads summary.


Basically, this book is about a group of scientists who think they’ve found a way to improve intelligence.  They’ve performed the operation on several animals, including a mouse named Algernon, and decide it is time to test it out on a human, Charlie Gordon.  Charlie is mentally retarded before the operation, but at his peak is so intelligent that even the scientists struggle with following his train of thought.  The operation comes at a cost, however.

First off, let me start out by saying that this too, along with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, was narrated by Jeff Woodman.  Gosh, he just blows me out of the water with his abilities.  Woodman does SUCH a great job with changing his voice as Charlie’s intelligence changes.  After these two books, I’m really tempted to look into what other audiobooks he’s narrated that are on my TBR list.

I loved the way this book was laid out, even listening to it.  Most of it is in a series of Progress Reports, that discuss how Charlie’s mind is progressing, and where he’s at emotionally.  There’s some regular narration as well, but I liked that the progress reports played along with the idea of everything being a scientific experiment.

I also liked the idea that even though they had improved his intelligence, emotionally he was still on a totally different page.  The brain is such an amazing organ, and you can’t expect to change one part of it and the rest to just “catch up.”  I thought the book did a great job of describing the emotional struggles Charlie was now finding himself in.

The fact that Charlie rebelled so much against being looked at as just a scientific subject versus a human being was also interesting.  As a scientist, I’m aware of the importance of keeping emotions out of your work when doing research.  I can’t imagine how difficult this has to be for those working in clinical studies or somewhere that the testing is done on people.  It would be really hard, and I can understand why Charlie hated the way they regarded him.


I did, however, find the dreams/flashbacks to be a bit confusing at times.  I completely understand what the author was doing with them.  I just think maybe it didn’t translate as well to the listened word as it is on paper.  I wanted to take a look at the actual book to see if these sections were somehow laid out differently, but haven’t had the chance.  Please fill me in if you’ve physically read the book!


Overall, I enjoyed Flowers for Algernon, though it didn’t blow me away.  I can’t necessarily pinpoint any particular reasons why – sometimes that’s just the feeling you get (or don’t get) from a book, you know?  I’ll be the first to say that my emotions and feelings towards a book can sometimes sway my rating of it.  I also seemed to be in a rut for a while of just liking books but not loving them.  I would, however, still recommend Flowers for Algernon to anyone who enjoys science fiction, and there are probably plenty of people out there who would rate it higher than I have.
3 out of 5


How do you feel about science wanting to “help” those with mental disabilities?
Do your emotions towards a book ever sway your overall opinion of it, particularly if you’re rating it?

One response to “Book Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  1. Pingback: May Book Round-up | Books Are My Thing

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