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Still Alice Paperback – December 2, 2014
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About the Author
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Most dementia-related books are memoirs written by family caregivers since the diagnosed generally lack the stamina, organized thinking, self reflection and awareness to narrate their story. Their literary voice is silenced even before the disease literally destroys it. Genova’s approach, getting inside of Alice’s head as she goes about her day, while also describing non-afflicted peoples’ reaction to her increasingly bizarre and unsettling behavior, gives this book its intimate power. The reader sees the duality of the disease: who Alice thinks she is while others see who she is not.
By writing fiction in the third person, Genova, who is a neurologist as well as an author, gives us a realistic and first-hand insight into the thinking of the diagnosed and those who love them. The author describes medical testing, support groups, the loss of brain and body function, and the impact of the disease on individual and collective interests. Through a fictional character, Genova gives voice to the real-life sufferers of dementia.
“Still Alice” is an astonishing and loving work of perspective and one of the best books about memory loss that I have read.
This book was an incredible read and, written by a neuroscientist, gave an insight into what goes on in the mind of a patient with Alzheimer's. When you are on the outside, looking in, it's difficult to understand what happens inside the head of someone facing these diseases that strip people of their cognitive function. It is obvious from the story that the author not only has a huge talent for writing, she did her research in trying to share the experience of the patient. She also shows how these diseases impact everyone around them and people react in very different ways. That was how it unfolded in my own family and was tough on everyone concerned.
This is one of those novels that I would recommend to just about anyone. If you have no experience with the disease it will be enlightening. If you know someone who is touched by this, it will give you a window into the mind of your friend or loved one. A tough, difficult read at times but well worth it as it is a brilliant novel.
there is much focus on the caregivers with books and support groups etc. but the Alzheimer's patient is left on their own. This book indeed discusses the caregiver and family challenges but the overall theme is what is going on in the head of Alice..
anyone who is being touched by Alzheimer's or dementia should read this book. I have already recommended it to several friends .
Top international reviews
I knew there was not going to be any magic cure at the end of the story but I wanted to follow Alice on her journey. Her husband, John, her three children and her work colleagues all have to come to terms with the fact that the woman they have known and loved is gone for ever,or at least part of her is. As Alice says "I miss myself". I learnt a lot about the disease from reading this book. My mother, much older than Alice, has the first signs of dementia and I now realise that she can't "try harder" to remember things. What people in this position need is patience, understanding and love.
There are two reasons for that.
Firstly, Alice is not a typical Alzheimer's sufferer. She's very clever, very educated and very aware, she admits to the disease rather than hides.
Secondly, the book ends earlier than it might, which allows less bleakness than if it followed Alice's journey for longer.
A good read, very moving, an insight into the victim's mental life.
The book is about Alice and her not so slow downfall into early on-set Alzheimer's at the age of 50. Alice is a very well respected professor of linguistics at Harvard university, traveling all over the globe giving lectures, and her opinion is listened to with respect. She feels it all happening in her head and can't do a thing about it.
The author Lisa Genova captures the progressive descent beautifully, with sympathy and empathy and manages to get a touch of humour in it from time to time. The way she writes, repeating sentences often and with little asides brings it home to you how awful this disease is.
It is heartbreaking to read and I have to admit to a little tear after Alice gives her talk to the world renown experts in the disease.
You just have to read this book, yes, it is sad but so well written, and does have it's heartwarming bits too.
Or, do I give it a nought? meaning " Do not read this if you've ever lost someone to dementia" , because it'll bring back years of buried memories, painful memories that'll blur the vision and wet the face of any 'care-giver' ( never liked that name) that relives it. Alice's unraveling is all too real.
In the end I settled for a four: There remains , in the story, an implication that somehow dementia in worse if the victim is young, and worse if the victim is 'smart' . Bollocks! , no one thinks of them self as old or dumb, the results of dementia, the loss of 'self' , are made no less horrifying, no less frightening by a few years of age or the odd point of IQ. Dementia is an awful disease, where sanity is as frightening as madness. It rips into everyone that has to deal with it and leaves only despair.
The book also has one of those an awful Hollywood endings , fading out at a happy moment for fear of scarring the audience with the true horror of the real end-game.
Heart breaking, and frightening are the two words that spring to mind instantly when I think about ‘Still Alice’ by Lisa Genova. Despite these negative thoughts regarding this unique novel, I consider this work to be a wonderful celebration of the complexities and the brilliance of the human mind.
Like so many things in life it is only as you lose that something when you truly realise just how important what you are losing is to you and yours. Having a humungous respect for the human mind and the genius of so many of our fellow humans I find reading about any decline in the function of this amazing human organ almost unbearable.
This novel is written in such an honest and compelling style and oozes with compassion and realism. Heart strings are stretched, torn and then wound round and round the reader’s ruptured emotion.
We read about the gradual decline of a brilliant mind. We read about her husband’s torturous journey as he takes each reluctant step towards his cherished partners decline. We read of the terrible impact on her children as they each struggle to cope as best they can under the most harrowing and cruel circumstances as they support the mother they have loved as she slowly slips out of reality’s grasp.
We read about this prolific professor who has lectured all across the globe and commanded the attention of so many fellow professors and eager students throughout her career. As we join her on this horrendous journey of mental decline and memory loss we, the readers ‘will her’ each time to be able to remember the answers to the questions she sets out for herself early on as a way for her to realise she needs to get the assistance she requires before it becomes too late for her to remember.
It is so hard to contemplate how a mind so brilliant could be reduced to such confusion and loss. We all know that it doesn’t matter whether you are a top scientist or a non academic; the result is the same and is equally as heartbreaking for all those loved ones struggling to cope and understand what cannot be understood.
Alzheimer’s disease is indiscriminate and as one of the great poets once put it;
‘IT LAYS IT’S ICY HANDS ON KINGS’
We know he was talking about ‘death’ but how apt this quote seems in relation to this horrible disease which in effect causes death to the brain’s vital functioning, regardless of who you are.
This is a moving story eloquently told and a book that will stay with me always or at least for as long as I can evade the brain invader who slowly stole Alice’s ability to remember.
I take an opposite view to the negative reviews I have read on Amazon. Some reviewers find it difficult to be empathetic to Alice and John because of their middle-class, educated environment. I think this is the crux of the point Lisa Genova is trying to make. Alice Howland is a Harvard Professor, a highly intelligent woman who thinks her life and career are commensurate with her intelligence. Her husband, John is equally educated and successful. They believe their's and their children's success in life is assured. Then they are hit with disaster. The family have to not only come to terms with the knowledge that the woman they know so well, will be irrevocably changed and they may be strangers to her, but also the realisation that this condition could be past to them and their children.
Within the confines of the space of a book, exaggerating the juxtaposition of what Alice is at the start with what she becomes at the end, gives the reader an intimate experience of this horrific condition. I felt personally involved with Alice's struggle and thought I was living the experience alongside her.
I found the book a wonderful exploration of family survival and development at a frightening time.
I did think the portrayal of Alice's gradual realization of her illness was absolutely gripping, and I suffered with her in sympathy. It was all too easy to imagine the horror of receiving such a diagnosis, and foreseeing for oneself the bleakness of the inevitable end. I also found it very easy to believe the author's portrayal of Alice as slowly adapting, finding pleasure in ice creams and sunny days - at least some of the time. We can't know what Alzheimer's is really like for the sufferer, since the ability to convey the experience is lost along with other high-level abilities, but this did seem to me a very persuasive imagining of what it MIGHT be like.
Until the ending. The book ends with Alice still living a happy life, surrounded by her family, bathed in the warmth of their love, cuddling a grandbaby in her lap. The message seems to be, she's lost her memory and no longer recognizes her husband or her children, but she's somehow "still Alice", so it's not so bad after all. This seems to me a copout. We all know Alzheimer's doesn't end that way, and Alice isn't going to be "still Alice" by the time it takes its toll.
Still, we all wish it were otherwise. I understand the author lost a relative to Alzheimer's, as did I, and too many others. Maybe this book is best seen as a rewriting of reality to make it more bearable. It's a good dream, while it lasts.
As the disease progresses, we see the frustration, the despair and the loneliness of Alice, as she moves inexorably apart from the world she knows and has inhabited all her life. We see the bewilderment and sadness of her children, the grief and occasional irritation - even anger - of her husband, and the embarrassment of colleagues, who simply don't know what to say to her. Alice is always loveable, and remains "still Alice", but towards the end of the novel, she is a very different version of the Alice we first meet.
I found this novel to be utterly convincing and absorbing. The author has done her research, and really knows her subject. I urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so. Very highly recommended.
It's surprising how easy it is to read and enjoy "Still Alice" considering the subject matter. Genova provided a perceptive and intriguing intuitive account of the world of the sufferer of an early onset Alzheimer's disease. Genova dealt with the subject with the most humble, thoughtful and empathetic manner. Thoroughly recommended!
Usually we associate this illness with people of age in their 70ies and older. It is tragic when it hits anyone but being 52, having full life ahead and being told it is practically over is like receiving death sentence.
At some point of our lives we all suffer. Lisa Genova did a very good job showing how life is cruel. Also as someone already mentioned: the book is brilliant not only showing the devastation in Alzheimers but also the beauty in redefined relationships. I think everyone should read it.
Alice a fifty year old Professor at Harvard University suddenly starts to experience lapses of memory and disorientation while out running in a familiar place. From then on we are taken on a journey to discover the feelings, fears and experiences of an early onset Alzheimer's sufferer. We associate Alzheimer's with old age but early onset is much more common than we think it seems. This is a sensitively written account of this horrifying disease which keeps you riveted to the book. Unfortunately there is no happy ending here. Even the hope of a cure seems well in the future. Still something we all need to read and think about.
This is an amazing story which highlights the lack in facilities for younger people who have dementia. It is not just an old persons' disease and it's difficult to imagine what it must be like to have such a diagnosis so young.
I really liked that this book made me think about how this illness must affect everyone and how frightening it is. I highly recommend this book and would love to hear more from Lisa Genova in future.