Read my halfway thoughts here.
Last weekend, I finished the second half of Flowers for Algernon in two sittings, just in time to have a week to ponder the book and gather my thoughts about it. By the end of the book, I felt as ambivalent about Charlie as I did initially, though I did empathize with him a lot more in the second half.
Daniel Keyes narrates a very compelling story by addressing the age-old question - what happens when you get something you always wanted but never prepared yourself to live with it? You may want riches but if you came into it suddenly one day, would you know what to do with it - squander it away or invest it or save it? In Charlie's case, it was intelligence. He wanted to be smart but it is not that he was incapable of enhancing his smartness, rather he was born mentally challenged.
I knew what to expect in the second half of the book, thanks to a spoiler in the Introduction. For much of the book, I was bummed out that I knew about it, but now, thinking back, I agree with Care that it helped to know what was coming. I was already looking for signs of that eventuality and it helped me appreciate some of the elements of Keyes' writing and hints that he dropped all over. It also made a few chapters very memorable to read.
I was quite bummed out that women weren't portrayed well in this book. Sure, it's the 60s and women in literature around this time were mostly sex objects or fluff characters or pawns intended to move men's stories forward. But still, they had personalities and a mind of their own, and all that was missing from this book.
But even the men in the book don't leave a big footprint behind. They certainly have more important roles but they were flat and mostly one-dimensional. That's the trouble with first-person stories, especially when they are from the perspective of someone who is mentally challenged or overly selfish.
This book is usually filed in the science fiction aisle, something I strongly disagree with. Sure, the idea of a magic pill to make you the smartest person in the world is the stuff of futuristic science fiction. But not when it dwells only on the effect it had on the recipient of that pill, as is the case in the book.
In the end, I was glad to have read this one. There is one chapter towards the end that makes reading the book so very worthwhile. It was powerful, sad, and incredibly moving. Up until that chapter, I wasn't that connected with the book, but that one chapter was super memorable.
Read Care's review or Bellezza's review of this book.
This book is from my personal library.