“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

My book club recently read “Flowers for Algernon” and while I am CERTAIN I read it in high school, I enjoyed it as though I were reading it for the very first time.  It felt like I WAS reading it for the very first time. I guess that proves it’s hard to retain things you read a very long time ago.

This book was published as a short story in 1958 and then as a novel in 1966 and tells the story of Charlie a young man with an IQ of 68 who is selected for an increased intelligence surgery.  It is told in the first person in a series of “progress reports” written by Charlie.

In the beginning Charlie’s spelling and grammer are poor but he comes across as a caring young man.  Charlie agrees to the surgery because he wants to be smart and have a lot of friends who like him.  At one point one of the doctors tells Charlie he has “good motor-vation and not everybody with an eye-Q of 68 has that.”

But as Charlie’s intelligence increases his personality changes and he becomes suspicious and sullen.  He realizes that he has been laughed at and taken advantage of and he becomes angrier and angrier.  He ends up losing his job at the bakery and  when he tries to find his family and is disappointed with the results of his search.  At one point one of his doctors says to Charlie “you developed from a likable retarded young man to an arrogant self centered antisocial bastard.”  Nice.

This is not necessarily an uplifting book but it is well written, entertaining and has a lot of very good book discussion questions.  For example: At what length would you go to achieve extraordinary intelligence?

I am glad I read it and I am sure it will make for a lively book group discussion.  Pick this one if you want to read a classic book guaranteed to generate a good chat.

 

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About Anne Loughrey

I am an avid member of several book clubs and a prolific keeper of my books. I love to discuss books and hear what others think of books I have read.
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7 Responses to “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

  1. JL says:

    Hi Anne,
    So glad you wrote about this book. When I was in first grade (1971) my runclub’s parents had some guests come up to their cabin and stay for a while. They had a daughter, Leslie, who was my exact same age. We spent every waking minute together that summer and became pen pals. She came back to Whitefish in 1973 and I have not seen her since in person – we are FB friends, so I feel like I am in touch again. Her dad is Daniel Keyes. He was the first author I had ever met and it was amazing following his writing career. Another book he wrote that stuck with me was, “The Fifth Sally” – It is about a woman with multiple personalities. I would love for you to read it and tell us all what you think – you are so incredible at breaking down the books. Thanks for an amazing blog. JL

    • JL, how cool that you met Daniel Keyes! And it doesn’t surprise me that you have kept in touch with her for all these years. I will definitely read your recommendation as well. Thanks!

      • JL says:

        The book was made into a movie called, “Charly” and I watched it years ago…it would be cool to see it again…

  2. Eva Sova says:

    Interesting! Dan Keyes wrote and lived for several summers next door to our cabin. Marybeth and Jody were good friends with his daughters. In fact, Jody is friends on Facebook with Leslie Keyes. Our copy of “Flowers for Algernon” was dated 1971.

    During that time, Dan was writing his new novel “The Fifth Sally”. We would wake up every morning to the sound of his typewriter.

    Just discovered that Jody has written a similar comment!

    Very interesting man and family. Eva Sova

    • Eva, this whole element to Daniel Keyes is so intruiging to me. I wonder if we could ever meet him? I believe we need to have a book club gathering this summer at your lake home to discuss!

  3. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  4. Hello there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your blog posts.I have a blog of my own but this is much better.

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