“This is one of the greats: a story and a central character that have stayed with me for thirty years, from the first moment I picked it up.”


First published as a short story in 1959 and rewritten by the author as a novel and published in 1966, both times the initial publisher insisted the author change the ending, and to his credit he refused and found publishers more willing to accept his version of the story.

Written in the epistolary style, the fictional protagonist of the story, Charlie Gordon, tells the reader his story through progress reports written over several months.

Charlie is a man in his thirties but being mentally challenged, in the book referred to as retarded, has the intellect of a small child. He wants more than anything to be “smart” especially after spending time with Algernon, a mouse who has been altered by science to be an exceptionally smart mouse.

The doctors working on this research want to use a human being, as they think the experiment is successful, so after many pages of progress reports they choose Charlie. After the operation, the change in the progress reports is evident and the reader learns more about Charlie’s childhood and the life he’s lived up to this point.

I thought it was an exceptionally well written, heartbreaking story and had to keep reminding myself it was a story of fiction.

I choose to read/listen to this work as an audio book and the narration was performed by Jeff Woodman, whose performance was brilliant as he brought out the character of Charlie at the different stages of his life.

Even for those who have read the text, I highly recommend listening to this version of the book as the narrator brings Charlie and his story to life.


Reviewed by:

Diana Long

Added 12th February 2018

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Diana Long