The beginning of the story is quite simple: a mentally retarded man called Charlie, got an experimental surgery giving him intelligence. Day after day, Charlie will discover the world, his world, pushing further away the boundaries of his existence as his intelligence grows.
An original novel told by a growing man.
The book is actually Charlie's diary. A couple of days before the actual surgery, the doctors have asked him to start keeping a journal to be able to study his pattern of thoughts before and after the surgery. The beginning of the story is written in a really childish way (keep in mind that as a retarded, his intelligence is limited), and as he grows, his style improves and becomes more structured, intelligible. But as the style evolves, so do his moods. With his brand new intelligence, Charlie starts to understand the world around him, creating a mood shift from time to time, shifting his diary logs a lot more. This reading experiment is astonishing, but as long as you go deeper into the story, you start to play the game trying to spot out the elements showing his new intelligence.
Some social and psychological themes that push you to question yourself
The book is the perfect plateform for many different themes. Some classic ones, as friendship and love (romantic or family related), but it also raises question about the way we treat the people who live a similar experience. Flowers for Algernon is a real trip into someone's mind, making you think about the way you treat those people. It is also a great ode to all of these workers who work on a daily basis to improve the life of psychological disabled patients.
Parenthood is also at the core of the story. It is about how to raise a retarded child, both in the technical and philosophical way. Should we simply accept the condition ? Try to fix people ? Maybe we should just love them as they are, even without intelligence ? And what is intelligence by the way ?
My final words…
Flowers for Algernon is actually really easy to read, taking you on board in a second. Even if the first pages are quite difficult to understand because of Charlie's basic intelligence, the book is deeply moving and won't let you down. We love the character, and we enjoy seeing him evolve on a daily basis. I highly recommand you go out there and buy the book, you can take my words you will not be disappointed.
A piece of advice though: Don't buy the enriched version, the number of pages tricks you into thinking you still have a lot to read, but it's not the case at all (but if you are really into the story you will find the original version in it, it is entirely up to you ! )