Monday, 15 February 2010

Still Alice by Lisa Genova


Hello everyone! Don't worry, I'm writing away: promise. I'll also be reading in Edinburgh next week, so I'll post details soon. But here is a post on something different. :)




Simon and Schuster approached me, asking if I would read and review some of their books prior to publication, so here is the first one. Before I begin, I would like to point out that I'm not being paid for doing this; so what I say is what I feel, and I pointed out to them that I would give a book a bad review if I didn't like what I read. So, here I am, writing this out for you and for them (when I should be working, damn you, free books!). I am the queen of procrastination. Love me for it. I hope you find this helpful; I'm copy and pasting it over from my book forum.

Still Alice is already published, but will be coming out in paperback this March. You know me, I'm a literary fiction girl, and I don't normally stray from that bar book club and book tree books. But, obviously, I'm a fan of good writing and a good story. We all like sitting down with a cup of tea and being transported elsewhere, especially if there's something else we're supposed to be doing instead! Still Alice covers the ground of good writing and good plot. It is the story of Alice, a university professor at Harvard, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she is just fifty.

Here I should probably pause and say something. I hate stories that take a topic that will tug at people's heart strings for the sake of a good sale. I hate stories that choose a topic and then toy with it loosely because the author doesn't really know what they are dealing with, or doesn't want to bog the reader down with facts. This book does not do this. Lisa Genova holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. To put it bluntly: this woman knows what the hell she's talking about, and she doesn't patronise her readers by talking down to them, nor does she flood them with so much information that it blocks the story.

This book finds the perfect balance between fact and fiction. Obviously, it's not one of the most uplifting books, and you're going to need tissues, but it encompasses an honest account of family, love and the confusion that Alice feels as her disease progresses. It's funny in places, and smarts in others. The narrative changes throughout to reflect Alice's state of mind, dragging the reader deeper into the story. Genova tells a story better than Picoult, and I'd recommend it to people who enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife. I don't want to sit here and talk about the plot, because I'm personally not a fan of knowing too much about a book before I read it, so instead I will take Lydia (Alice's youngest daughter)'s approach and say forget about the plot; how did it make you feel? Well, it's been a while since I've read a book that I've not wanted to put down. I read this book in just over a day, and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and I have a feeling it's going to play on my mind for a while. It's not the best writing, but it affected me in a way that is hard to describe: I feel that it was a book I should have read. I have a feeling it's a book that we all should read at some point. It's not a book that lectures; it's not a book that makes you feel bad about yourself. It's a book that lays open facts in an accessible way, in a way that screams out to be read. There are few books that fall into this category. Wasted by Marya Hornbacher is one of them; the account of something so raw, experienced by one individual desperate to tell their story. Alice may be a fictional character, but this book shouts out on behalf of people who suffer from Alzheimer's, on behalf of Genova's grandmother who suffered from it. Alzheimer's is a topic that is often neglected by fiction or poorly written. If you're going to do something, then do it properly. If you're going to read a story about Alzheimer's; if you want an emotional story; if you're just looking for a good read, then choose this book.


You can pre-order this book now, for £4.79, out 4th March: here

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