Alice Howland is proud of the life she has worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When Alice begins to grow forgetful at first she just dismisses it, but when she gets lost in her own neighbourhood she realizes that something is terribly wrong. Alice finds herself in the rapid downward spiral of Alzheimer’s disease. She is only 50 years old.
While Alice once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must re-evaluate her relationship with her husband, her expectations of her children and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.
Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.
Some books polarise and others unite, but you never really know which will do what. The differing opinions and viewpoints in a book club is one of its great attractions. Listening to everyone’s ideas and insights goes a long way to helping us get more from our reading.
But this month we saw little in the way of opposing viewpoints. Literally everyone enjoyed Still Alice, although their reasons did vary slightly.
The novel’s content took the prize for greatest appeal. Everyone was moved by Alice’s plight and the impact on family and friends keenly felt. Others felt the writing was what brought everything close to the bone, giving the novel more of a realistic, non-fiction quality. Then there was the research … with some of us having first hand experience with early on-set dementia and Alzheimer’s, it was felt Genova nailed it in all aspects of this tragic illness.
Our discussion centred mainly on how Alzheimer’s impacts relationships and the butterfly effect of the condition. We looked closely at Alice’s husband and children and how they all reacted differently. They would come to terms with their loss by following different courses, but the break down of her marriage was the hardest for us to take. Realistic yes, but woeful all the same.
A few of us had also watched the movie starring Julianne Moore, but here there were conflicting opinions. How you take to a movie after reading a well written book can depend as much on your personality as the quality of the movie itself. Some take fine to having their mental imprint of characters reproduced for the screen. Others do not.
Our advice here would be to read the book first (not surprising counsel from a book club) then grab the DVD and a box of tissues and go for it!