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Summary

Charlie Gordon, a floor sweeper born with an unusually low IQ, has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that doctors hope will increase his intelligence - a procedure that has been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon.

All Charlie wants is to be smart and have friends, but the treatment turns him into a genius.

Then Algernon begins to fade.

What will become of Charlie?

Read by Adam Sims.

©1966 Daniel Keyes (P)2017 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"A masterpiece of poignant brilliance...heartbreaking." ( The Guardian)

What listeners say about Flowers for Algernon

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He may forget himself but you never will

My first encounter with the story of Charly Gordon was many years ago when I watched the film ‘Charly’ probably in the mid-seventies. (Cliff Robertson won a well-deserved Oscar playing the title role). Charly is one of those characters that never really left me so I was delighted to be reminded of the book when it was mentioned in Matt Haig’s book ‘How to Stop Time’ and was even more pleased to find that this modern classic from the late fifties has recently been issued as a audiobook.
This story may be categorised as science fiction but in reality it is a deep exploration into the psyche of a man who up to the age of 32 has been a moron (using the delightful parlance of the day), but is then given the opportunity to massively improve his intelligence by participating in experimental surgery. What follows is a moving and tragic tale of a man who achieves everything he has ever wanted but is unable to cope with the burden of finding himself at the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum with the incumbent memories and understanding of his former life and self. He has to face up to how he had appeared to and was treated by other people, his rejection by his family and the problems brought about by his supressed sexuality and his desire to be with the woman he loves.
Admittedly there are scenes in this book that will make you weep but if you are prepared to embark on a journey with a deeply human and insightful man, you will be richly rewarded. Does this story stand the test of time? Yes it does absolutely, and it is wonderful that is getting a well-deserved revival. The narration of this audiobook is superb and I congratulate Adam Sims for so brilliantly breathing new life into Charly Gordon.

20 people found this helpful

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A truly sublime and subtle Sci Fi story!

What made the experience of listening to Flowers for Algernon the most enjoyable?

It was Adam Sims brilliant characterisation of main character Charlie Gordon. Charlie moves through a lot of emotional and psychological changes, throughout the course of the novel and Sims delivers a highly detailed, thoroughly believable and utterly convicted range of performances, depending on the latest development with Charlie.

What did you like best about this story?

'Flowers For Algernon' is perhaps one of the better pieces of Sci-Fi that I have read and there's not space ship or any aliens in sight, in this story. I have always enjoyed quite grounded Sci-Fi that could actually exist here and now and Keyes excels in this, providing an excellent and very subtle Icarus tale of how we might come to hate it, when science gives us everything that we've ever wanted. In this vain, you could compare it to the likes of 'Black Mirror'.

Which character – as performed by Adam Sims – was your favourite?

Charlie Gordon. I must say that his other characters were not as well performed and Sims did not even try to change his intonation when speaking the female parts.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Frustration. I mean this in no bad way! I am empathic of Charlie's frustrations at his inability to communicate himself effectively, at the start and sympathise, as his intelligence grows much faster than his emotional maturity, which causes rifts in his personal relationships. At the same time, I can ally myself with the supporting characters, who find Charlie frustrating as his mind expands and he becomes more and more full of his own self importance.

Any additional comments?

The writing style and narration at the beginning of this novel is amazing. When the story starts, Charlie has very low intelligence and makes a lot of grammatical and spelling errors, which Keyes deliberately includes, forcing his reader to inhabit the feeble mind of Charlie Gordon. In the audio version, Sims does a magnificent job of narrating these early sections, with audible sounds of exasperation and a lot of repetition of long, complicated words, as Charlie struggles to pronounce them correctly.

My main criticism of 'Flowers For Algernon' is it's completely unimpressive female characters. There are 4 in total and each fall into a horrible stereotype. I would demonise the book for this more, if it weren't for the fact that it was written in the 60's, where such archetypes were prominent.

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Simply marvellous


Wow this was superb, I kept having to remind myself it was written in 1958.
It’s in the genre science fiction but that is a discredit I feel towards this powerful thought provoking work.

The story of a mouse Algernon who was experimented on to become a genius mouse. The doctors/scientist then used this knowledge to experiment on a man named Charlie who was born as he is quoted a moron and then the slow change to genius after the experimental surgery is done.

Charlie’s insight to his previous life is gradually questioned as the story moves along and there are some upsetting realisations for him. No spoilers but things do not continue on the genius level and soon things change again.

The narrator Adam Sims was outstanding in the way he subtly changed his voice from simpleton Charlie to genius Charlie.
I am not a great fan of American narrators however he made me feel for Charlie as though he was a personal friend so plenty of tears were shed and I felt bereft at the end.

Great for book clubs or just food for thought,

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moving and awe inspiring.

I usually spend a lot of time deciphering what I am learning from a book, however I spent most of this simply in awe of how beautifully it was written and performed.

the tone of the narration flows perfectly with the book.

not a book I would have thought to read without having it recommended to me. however I found myself moved throughout and am now passing on that recommendation.

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Totally absorbing!

Fantastic listen. Some of the best voice acting i have come across. Would highly recommend as a first audiobook.

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Beautiful!

I pretty much listen to this book in one go! I was hooked after the 1st minute. Definitely a must read and I will be talking to anyone I can about it. Heartwarmly sad, thought provoking and beautiful.

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An absolute classic.

A brilliant story of a man's mental struggles. Extremely well narrated too, essential reading.

I always saw this on the bookshelf of my local bookshop, and finally got around to listening to it. You won't be disappointed.

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strong start, but fizzled out

the idea here is fascinating, but the social and medical consequences of morons becoming genius is never fully explored. instead we have a predictable eliza doolittle esque personal tale of a miserable lad, who cant fit anywhere, not forward or back, who gets more miserable.
his friendship with the mouse algernons also never developed. since the mouse is now as clever as a human, they couldve created a communication system and advanced science.
instead george gets sexy with a stereotypically drawn arty neighbour.
the book needs less navel gazing, an more story telling, as it stands, it is a wasted opportunity to write a unique novel.
shame.

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listened straight through

I didn't realise how gripping this book would be, I knew a little of the story before listening, but had no concept of how painful it would be.

A phenomenal book that I could not recommend more highly.

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Thought provoking but so sad.

Just finished it and I'm crying. I think that's a good thing. If I ever get a pet mouse I'll call him Algernon.

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  • Markus Pfaff
  • 21-03-18

Finished entire book in one sitting.

Beautiful and flawless performance by the narrator Adam Sims.
Baffled at how incredibly well the story has aged. If I didn't know it was from the 60s, and someone told that it came out just last year, I probably wouldn't even have questioned it. That's pretty rare for sci-fi, imho.

Thank you, CLSM, for recommending me this book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-05-19

Immersive

I'm pretty new to audio books but this was the most immersive experience I had so far. The performance was really great.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Knut
  • 07-11-17

The most dynamic character ever.

It's hard not to love this book. I felt a lot of empathy for Charlie, and even though Charlie's became a true dick, I really liked him. I the ending was not as satisfying as I had hoped, but it's a really minor inconvenience.

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  • Carol
  • 12-09-21

Charlie

I really enjoyed this book. Completely different from what I usually read. Was good .

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  • Dean Van Es
  • 12-08-21

Really good

Not like any other book I've read. I really enjoyed it and couldn't wait to get back to it.

Different, a great story well written and well narrated.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-07-21

Kindness over anything else

A simple but profound book about the struggle to fit into a judgemental society where intelligence or at least the ability to laugh at jokes and tell good ones at the same time are some of the greatest measurements of social insertion and acceptance. To some extent, Charlie is all of us. Although his intelectual disability does not allow him to be an integrated part of the social body, there is a great amount of empathy within the character that the narrator, Adam Sims, seems to have wonderfully expressed through his voice.
I have personally enjoyed the way the story was narrated and how Adam Sims was able to get into character. Impressive!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-02-21

One of those must read books.

One of those must-read books that makes you appreciate life, reading, everything you had, have and will have.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-09-20

Awesome!

This audiobook is really worth the listen! The reader does a great job presenting a great book. Not much more to say!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-04-20

Absolutely AMAZING!

The best book I've read for quite a long time. Superbly written! I couldn't stop listening.

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  • Henrik Sörensen
  • 27-02-20

Brilliant book

A very strong and beautiful story that causes the hair to rise. The narrator does a fantastic job of shaping Charlie throughout his journey.