by Daniel Keyes
This is my 1960's Decade Challenge book. I've wanted to read it ever since 1968 when I saw the movie Charly that was based on this book. The movie starred Cliff Robertson in the starring role as Charly Gordon, a mentally retarded man in his 30's. I thought Robertson did an awesome job. Now that I've read the book, my next movie from Netflix is Charly. It will be interesting to see how the movie and book compare. My gosh, the movie was nearly 40 years ago (and I'm only 28. How does that happen?!)
Charly has an IQ of 70, but he is anxious to learn and works very hard in his classes for the mentally retarded. He has a job at a bakery running errands and cleaning. It's a job he loves and there are people there who are his friends. All this is about to change when Charly is selected for an experimental operation that may raise his intelligence. The same procedure has been very successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon.
The book is written as a series of Project Reports by Charly himself, starting before the operation and continuing for 7-8 months afterwards. The first entries capture Charly's innocence and fear and his desire to be smart. The entries are fraught with misspelled words and reveal Charly's low intellect. As the operation proves to be a success we follow Charly's rapid rise in intelligence. He peaks with an IQ of 185, above that of the scientists behind the experiment.
Charly's emotional growth does not keep pace with his intellectual development. Memories from his childhood were now accessible to him in vivid detail and he has to try to deal with them. There are other things he's not emotionally ready to handle, such as relationships, especially those with women.
I'm glad I read Flowers for Algernon and highly recommend it. If you're looking for a mild science fiction that's interesting and quick to read, with emotional charge, this is a perfect choice.
In addition tocounting for the By the Decades Challenge, Flowers for Algernon also counts for the Banned Books and the TBR challenge.