2000 - 2007

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

(Still Alice) By Genova, Lisa (Author) Paperback on 06-Jan-2009

Five words from the blurb: Alzheimer’s, memories, harrowing, family, loving

Still Alice is one of those books that seems to receive universal praise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative review for it and so I expected to fall in love with Alice, ending the book in an emotional heap. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and I was slightly disappointed by the book as a whole.

Alice is a world-renowned expert in linguistics, but she begins to forget things and is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, she needs Home Care Assistance. The book follows her decline, showing how rapidly this terrible disease takes hold of its victim.

The book is very easy to read – it is dominated by dialogue and so I whizzed through it in a couple of sittings. The problem is that this lead to the plot being superficial. I longed to know what was going through their heads instead of just hearing their words. Everything in the book happened too quickly – the diagnosis was almost instantaneous and her decline relentless. I would have preferred things to have happened more slowly, or at least been allowed some time to reflect on events. Instead I was whisked through everything so quickly that it was hard to develop an emotional response.

I also found the majority of the characters, especially Alice’s children, to be one-dimensional and so I struggled to bond with them.

The book improved in the final chapters and there were a few more interesting sections:

“My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter.”

I also found a few of the final scenes touching, but I didn’t need to get the tissues out.

Overall, this book was too light for my tastes. I preferred learning about early-onset Alzheimer’s through reading The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block and I highly recommend The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey, which moved me deeply. But I’m in the minority: 97% of people on goodreads enjoyed this book, so the odds are that you will too.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

I struggled to read the last 65 pages or so because I was crying so hard I could barely see the words. Life….With Books

It’s really good, but it could have been amazing. Had a Dad” Alzheimer’s Blog

It is haunting, heartbreaking, and frightening. A Bit Bookish


The Story of Forgetting – Stefan Merrill Block

The Story of Forgetting

Five words from the blurb: Alzheimer’s, truth, forgetting, family, history

The Story of Forgetting is a novel about a rare form of Alzheimer’s that affects sufferers at a devastatingly young age. Seth is just fifteen-years-old when his mother is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He realises that he knows very little about her past and so decides to investigate, discovering some surprising secrets about her childhood.

An intertwining narrative describes the life of twins, one of whom has the condition and one who doesn’t. The use of twins to show the decline in ability was extremely effective and led to some of the most touching scenes in the novel.

The book was inspired by real events in the author’s family history and combines detailed scientific information on the condition with a gripping narrative. The book shows the difficulties faced by the families of those affected, explains the history of the disease, and goes some way towards explaining how the brain is affected. This means that it is more than just a story and could also be used as a piece of reference material for those interested in learning about early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The human mind knows itself the least. The human mind may be able to trace the origin of life through billions of years to hydrothermal vents in the ocean’s floor, it may be able to comprehend and replicate the means by which the sun produces energy, it may even be able to describe events that took place at the beginning of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago, but when it comes to exactly how we have made these discoveries, exactly how our thoughts are thought, we know a minuscule amount. And much of what little we do know we’ve learned indirectly and for the saddest reasons, by the ways the mind malfunctions.

The large amount of science meant that it didn’t have the emotional impact of other books on the subject, but I think this could be seen as a good thing. There were some sad scenes, but overall I found this book to be more informative than emotional. Some people will probably find the science too detailed, but I appreciated the way in which the studies weren’t dumbed down for a mainstream audience.

The plot was clever and although I found much of it predicable there were still a few surprises sprinkled through the text.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Alzheimer’s and the quality of the writing means that I am keen to try Stefan Merrill Block’s new novel, The Storm at the Door, when it is released later this year.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

This novel touched my heart with its sensitive portrayal of the human suffering associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Caribousmom

….some of the passages about the origin of life and memory and human evolution were just gorgeous.  Fyrefly’s Book Blog

……it’s a book to read slowly, and savor. Boston Bibliophile