Book Review – Still Alice

Still Alice
By Lisa Genova
Simon & Schuster
Rating: *****

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a renowned expert in linguistics, with a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow forgetful and disoriented, she dismisses it for as long as she can until a tragic diagnosis changes her life – and her relationship with her family and the world around her – for ever. 

Unable to care for herself, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose as her concept of self gradually slips away. But Alice is a remarkable woman, and her family learn more about her and each other in their quest to hold on to the Alice they know. Her memory hanging by a frayed thread, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.

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I found this novel in a charity shop for just 50p, I knew the story was about early-onset Altzheimer’s disease which really interests me at the moment, someone who is close to me seems to be having memory lapses and forgetting a lot of things, so this story-line felt very close to home for me.

The story is in the perspective of Dr Alice Howland, an intelligent 50 year old who is a she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. She keeps getting memory blanks and starts to blame menopause. Until one day she goes out for a regular run in her usual spot and has no idea where she is. Panic and fear take over her entire body, she realises she needs to see someone about this. Alice is soon diagnosed with early-onset Altzheimer’s disease. A very scary thing to hear at just 50 years old. She decides to keep it from her husband and children for a while, letting it sink in.

This novel has so much raw emotion and is very poignant. It only took me two days to read this book, even though you knew as a reader that Alice would decline with the disease and there wasn’t much hope of a cure, it was still page turning. The whole perspective of the book was very interesting that Alice was a very intelligent educated woman teaching and lecturing at Harvard and becoming someone who can’t remember the most simple of words, or known faces, even memorised recipes she had used for years. This novel shows that this debilitating disease can affect anyone even if they are intelligent and use their brains to a very high level.

For Alice, this disease took away her work, her lifetime of achievements, her future aspirations, her organisation skills, her language. It slowly started taking everything from her, but what effected her most was that even though she was still sound of mind her opinions and choices were not trusted or even respected anymore and this is what upset her the most. Her own family who discuss Alice’s future as if she is not even in the room. This is what got to me and made me really feel for Alice. This novel makes you as a reader, understand that people with alzheimer’s are human beings, strange how just telling people this one word changed their whole idea of her as a person and I think that was what was hardest for her and hardest for me to read. One minute she was “normal Alice Howland” next minute she is is “Alice Howland with alzheimer’s how people spoke to her, reacted to her, interacted with her changed drastically but she was “still Alice”

I really liked that the entire novel was just in Alice’s perspective, you didn’t get to read her husbands thoughts or her children or the Doctor just Alice. Alice is an unreliable narrator, her own Doctor tells her at one point she is not allowed to go to appointments on her own as she may forget what she has been told. So narrating the story on how she thinks, feels how she sees the world is not very reliable, though it gives a true and emotional perspective of how a person with alzheimer’s thinks,

I found Still Alice to be a very gripping, emotional and current read, The author clearly had a great knowledge of the disease, after reading her notes on the book at the end of the novel she discusses how she spoke with many alzheimer’s patients and their symptoms, feelings, can tell this made the book feel much more real and the author’s grandmother had the disease you can tell this story comes from a very close place to the author’s heart.

Not only is this novel a brilliantly written story, but it also gives you a very realistic, honest and raw perspective of someone who suffers from alzheimer’s. Although this book was upsetting, it was such a good read and I highly recommend it to anyone. Katie x

Alzheimer’s Society is the only UK charity that campaigns for change, funds research to find a cure and supports people living with dementia today. Click here to find out more and donate to helping this fantastic charity. 

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