Flowers for Algernon #1–Short Story and Novel (a Short Review)
When I was in the depths of despair, this summer, I happened upon a PDF of Daniel Keyes’ short story Flowers for Algernon and, before I knew it, I’d read it in one sitting. A day or two later, I even went and wrote up a blog post about it, but I was going through a lot at the time and I didn’t feel like posting it, so I didn’t. Fast-forward to October, I was at a book sale when I came across the novel version of Flowers for Algernon, and my heart leapt for joy! 🙂
So now I’ve also finished the novel and I’ve just had another look at what I wrote in July, and, well, I feel like posting it now. 🙂
July 20, 2017
As per the pledge on the side of my blog, I don’t usually read short stories unless I have a printed copy, but the other night, before I really knew what was happening, I found myself reading and finishing Daniel Keyes’ twenty-two page, heartbreaking, masterpiece of a short story Flowers for Algernon. I cried a whole lot as I read the last entry. It probably wasn’t the best thing for me to read at this moment, but I’m still glad I did.
If you’ve never heard of Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (the short story version), it’s a first person narrative story told in the form of “progress reports” written by a 37-year-old, mentally-challenged man who undergoes a procedure to triple his intelligence. As a short story, it’s pretty much flawless and epitomizes exactly what a short story should be. There is a whole lot of insight to be found in it’s it’s twenty two pages about the human condition and it leaves you with a broken heart, but broken in a way that should give you greater sympathy and understanding for yourself and others. It’s bittersweet and tragic and beautiful.
I don’t know if the subsequent novel version of this story is as good as the short story (I will probably read the, at some point in time, just not right now), but I think this is a short story that everyone should read, at least once.
In answer to my July self, I would say the novel version is as good as the short story. There are slight plot differences between the two, but in essence they’re both the same story and Charlie is the same person. It’s funny, this time I knew how the story would end, yet, as I read the last entry, I still wept nearly as much as I did the first time.
That said, if I had to choose one version to recommend, I’d choose the short story. What Daniel Keyes manages to pack into twenty-two pages is, in itself, a work of staggering genius. The novel version, with it’s additional 200 pages, fleshes things out and adds more food for thought, but the heart and impact of the story is all still contained in the original twenty-two pages.
There’s more I’d like to say about Flowers for Algernon, but for now, I’ll just reiterate what I said earlier, I think the short story version of Flowers for Algernon, is a story everyone should read, at least once. And if you do read it and find yourself moved by it, I’d highly recommend reading the novel as well. 🙂
Ps. If you are interested, here is a link to a PDF of the short story
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- Flowers for Algernon #1–Short Story and Novel (a Short Review)
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