BOOK REVIEW: STILL ALICE BY LISA GENOVA

BOOK REVIEW: STILL ALICE BY LISA GENOVA

    The book Still Alice was first published in 2007, and has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 40 weeks. The book has been translated into 31 languages, has won a string of awards, and has been a popular choice on the book club circuit. Now as the hit movie is wowing audiences, and Julianne Moore has won the Oscar for her portrayal of the lead character Alice Howland, the book finally grabs my attention – takes a while sometimes I guess.

     

    The subject matter is heavy, the impact of a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease to a brilliant Harvard professor who has just celebrated her 50th birthday. Hard to imagine the irony of a world-renowned linguistics expert and professor of cognitive psychology being struck by a disease that impairs thought and speech. We watch a woman, who defines herself by her accomplishments; try to come to terms with the prospect of loosing her beloved teaching role and thus the respect and accolades of her peers. Alice is also a wife and mother.  The impact of her diagnosis, and subsequent mental and physical decline, brings out strong emotions from those closest to her.

     

    This is Genova’s debut novel. As a neuroscientist, Genova uses her years of experience to portray a realistic path of early onset Alzheimer’s. When Alice starts to forget a word during a speech, misplaces her cellphone, and becomes disorientated while out for her regular run, she knows that something is wrong. Not just menopause, as is first suggested by her doctors. We follow Alice’s journey from disbelief, denial, and finally to one of acceptance.

     

    I read the book and was moved by passages that resonated so with my own experiences. My father fell deeper into his own world as his dementia progressed until finally passing in 2013 while in a make believe world that we could only watch from afar. At one point Alice remarks that she wished she had cancer, as people know how to handle that diagnosis and are generally more compassionate and understanding. Sad, but true.

     

    This book is an education for us all. Still Alice made my cry but also made my laugh at the humor that Alice tried to bring to her situation. I had violent tendencies towards the husband but my heart ached for Alice’s children. I recently watched the film on a flight back to the US and found myself sobbing in my seat (and again as I type this) as the story is so real. I recommend that you read the book first, then see the movie, as it is a story that we all need to understand. Julianne Moore was amazing in the lead role and so deserving of an Oscar, but the book shares so many of Alice’s thoughts that you really understand how she processes the diagnosis and chooses to live her life.

     

    Please let me know what you think of this book and if you think the movie does the book justice?

      20 Comments
      • I’ve heard this is awesome!!

      • Oh…I loved this book. I think I devoured it in a matter of days because I couldn’t put it down. I have been fortunate to not have experienced this horrible disease first hand with a loved one, so while I knew what Alzheimers was, I didn’t really know a lot of the nuances and truly horrible aspects. It was very moving and heartbreaking, but such a good read (I think that is because it makes you feel so much when reading it!). I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m dying to (note to self…check on demand this weekend to see if it’s there!). Wonderful review and so glad to hear the movie version is also good (so many times a movie butchers the story!!).

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Vicky. I had a very strong reaction to the husband in the book but Alec Baldwin didn’t seem so bad in the movie. I was surprised they changed Harvard to Columbia but generally the movie sticks pretty true to the book. Hope you get a chance to see the movie.

      • I haven’t seen the movie yet but I really liked this book. I read it when it first came out (or within a year or so) and had no experience with the disease at the time. Now that I am more familiar with it, I plan to do a reread this summer because, while I liked the book, I think I would take more away from it now.

      • Sue says:

        Thanks Allison. I think it’s interesting to reread books like this when you are at a different part of your life journey. Potentially you take away other aspects of the story and can perhaps relate to characters more.

      • Trish says:

        Definitely putting this one on my short list. It seems I live in a bubble as I hadn’t heard about it, so thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.

      • Sue says:

        Thanks Trish. I thought I was a little late to the party too, but better late than never

      • Alexandria says:

        I loved this book and it touched me in so many ways. It makes you wonder what will happen to you in your life and with your loved ones and it’s a frightening throughout. I am so sorry to hear about your father and I am sorry about his passing!

        • Sue says:

          Thans Alexandria, I love a book that touches you far more deeply than you would first imagine. Thanks for your kind words.

      • Shann Eva says:

        I have heard great things about the movie, but didn’t even know it was based on a book. I always like to read the book first. It sounds like a very, emotional, heavy read, so I’ll have to be in the right mind set. We’ve read so many heartbreaking books in my book club, I need something fun first! Thanks for the review!

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Shann Eva. It is a heavy subject for sure but it’s written in a practical way that makes you think deeply about how you would cope in such a situation. Very thought provoking, hope you enjoy it

      • Farrah says:

        I’ve never heard of this book, but will definitely be adding it to my to-read list! Alzheimer’s is such a difficult disease to deal with, and can be so hard for others to understand. :[ Over the course of this year, I’ve realized that one of my favorite patient populations to work with is geriatrics, and it can be so heartbreaking to watch how it progresses and how it affects them and their loved ones. I’ll have to check out the movie too!

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Farrah True words although I found that once my dad passed the point when he was in his own make believe world he was quiet happy. It was very hard for the family though to cope with the progression of his disease as we realized all the implications. My hope is that they will find s cure for this someday soon. Thanks

      • Thanks for the book review. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and wondered about the book. I have a feeling it is excellent.

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Tirralan. I like to read the book before seeing the movie but I think you would still enjoy the book as it would add more detail of how the characters feel to what you have just watched.

      • Claire says:

        This sounds like a great book! I don’t have much time to read anymore but next time I do I will check it out!

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Claire, have you tried audio books? I find I can fit them into a busy schedule sometimes more easily than the written word although I do alternate between my Kindle and regular books. Appreciate life is a juggle though, so good luck

      • Lois says:

        This book sounds really really interesting! I am looking forward to buying this at the weekend!! Thank you for sharing this 🙂

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