Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon tells the story of Charlie Gordon, a man of low IQ who is volunteered to take part in an experimental treatment to increase his intelligence. But the treatment works too well, turning Charlie into an unparalleled genius and giving him a window into the soul of humanity.

Flowers for Algernon

Told in the first person through series of research reports written by Charlie, we see how Charlie’s gradually increasing intelligence changes his relationships with his friends, teachers, and doctors, as they become aware of Charlie’s profound insights. Charlie slowly comes to understand that those he once considered friends are now afraid of his burgeoning talents, and those who he once looked to up to are not the gods he expected them to be.

We see first hand Charlie’s growing IQ as his spelling, grammar and writing style slowly improves throughout the novel. And his perspective gives us a view of the inner workings of his developing mind.

As Charlie’s ascension to genius continues he provides us lucid insights into his research and his building isolation as his intelligence draws him further away from those he cares for.

Flowers for Algernon is the best of science-fiction and a beautifully crafted story told simply but intelligently. Charlie’s struggle is a familiar one to anyone ounce of humanity. It’s one which forces the reader to reflect on humiliation of ageing, death and the development of the self.

I hadn’t heard of Flowers for Algernon before it was recommended to me by a friend, but this is a classic and should be read by everyone. It’s one of those books that makes you realise there isn’t enough time in the average human life to read all of the books you should.

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