Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: Still Alice

I hardly even know where to begin with this novel by Lisa Genova. OK, how's this:

Read it.

But be prepared to be weepy and really sad. Still Alice is the story of 50-year-old Alice, a professor of linguistics at Harvard who becomes alarmed when she misses a word here and there in a lecture and gets lost in her own neighborhood. She expects to hear the neurologist say, "Get more sleep" or "Take a vacation." Instead, he hits her with the unbelievable: "You have early onset Alzheimer's disease."

The novel then follows Alice's rapid decline, from Alice's own point of view. I found myself actually weeping at a couple of points, especially in her interaction with her grown children and in her constant realization that she will not be getting any better. Ever.

Publisher's Weekly has it all wrong. They say, "Genova's prose style is clumsy and her dialogue heavy-handed. This novel will appeal to those dealing with the disease and may prove helpful, but beyond the heartbreaking record of illness there's little here to remember."

On the contrary, I found her writing style graceful and her dialogue completely believable. (And I really have a thing about dialogue.) In fact, after reading Still Alice, I was struck with the total unfairness that brilliant medical professionals like Genova (she's a neuroscientist) and Abraham Verghese (internist and author of the amazing Cutting for Stone) can also write brilliant novels. Sooo not right.

But I'm glad for them both, Genova and Verghese. And I don't think you have to be "dealing with the disease" to be touched by this book. You just have to be a feeling human being. (Publisher's Weekly gets two big thumbs-down for its review.)

Other Bloggers' Reviews of Still Alice
A Novel Menagerie
Books on the Brain
Literary Feline
Literally Booked
The Bookworm's Library


Jennifer (Crazy-for-Books) said...

I read and reviewed this book last month as well. It was one of the best books I've read. It's so incredibly sad, but the writing is amazing and the story is heartfelt and moving. I loved this book and I immediately gave it to my SIL and mom to read and they loved it, too! It's definitely a book I'd recommend to everyone.

Missy B. said...

I have been waiting ages to read this book. Your review was awesome!

Sherry said...

Thanks for participating in the Saturday Review at Semicolon.

If you're a poetry lover, I'd like to invite you (and your readers) to participate in the poetry survey that I'm doing. I'm looking for your ten favorite classic poems. Read more about it here.

ANovelMenagerie said...

Thank you for linking in my review. I enjoyed your perspective on it.

LisaMM said...

Great review. Thanks for linking to my review. I think PW is really off the mark. My life has not been directly affected by EOA but I was soooo moved by this book. My book club (13 women- only 2 with Alzheimer's in their family history) unanimously loved it.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I love how this book was set up and written, and can't wait to read her second book! The part that touched me the most was when she read the letter... I love how realistic this book is.