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Flowers for Algernon

Narrated by: Adam Sims
Length: 8 hrs and 26 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (952 ratings)

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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.

17 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.

4 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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My first Audiobook

This was my first Audiobook. My son gave me a voucher for my birthday and this was the book I knew I wanted to listen to. Every day I would go to the park for my walk and listen for an hour or two at a time. Usually I listen to Spotify but this made a very pleasant change. I have 4 or 5 paperbacks at home but I can exercise my body and my mind at once with this and I'm pretty sure I'll be a monthly subscriber from now on.

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Great story and narration

A captivating story and very well narrated. Very interesting to read this from the perspective of the main protagonist and see how his mind changes

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Great story. Worth a read.

This book can put your heart strings to the test. Its like Limitless the movie but much deeper.

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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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  • 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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-01-20

Heartbreaking and well written!

I honestly thought I knew what I was getting into with this one, the story retold in both Simpsons and spongebob and other similar shows. But the stort of Charlie is one where knowing where the story goes only makes it more heartbreaking. A lot of what he deals with hits close to home, both pre and post surgery and that only makes him more endearing as a protagonist. One of my new favorite books

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  • Birthe
  • 21-10-19

Beautiful story even more beautifully narrated

The story is heartbreakingly beautiful and the performance makes it even better. I would suggest to everyone to listen to it instead of read it!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-07-19

What an amazing character development

I loved Charles Gordon when he was a genius: with his arrogance and sadness. Something to think about in the light of genetic modification news.

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  • julia
  • 29-05-19

Wonderful but dark

I had heard of the title of this book a lot but never thought of trying it until yesterday. The story was so compelling that I finished the whole thing in a day. It makes you think a lot about how far science should go in altering the way things are. And the character felt so real, which somtimes made it difficult to listen to not so very pleasant things happening inside his head. I liked the book but for some very dark, painful moments throughout, especially towards its end. I found myself skipping these parts. But I guess these were necessary to do justice to what it would really feel like to be in the protagonist's shoes.