A Brilliant Brain Burns Brightest at the Last: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Posted by Justine Solomons on August 26, 2013, in Recommendations

Buy this book.

Review by Justine Solomons.

You know how some books stay with you for ages? Shift your world perceptions, make you re-assess your own actions and thoughts? Well, Still Alice is one of those books. It’s not a light-fluffy-by-the pool-summer-read but it’s very good and my life feels a little bit richer for having read it.

Alice is a neuroscientist with tenure at Harvard and, at fifty, is diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia. Through the course of this novel we watch Alice, her husband and their three grown-up children deal with the progress of her disease. There’s no comfortable happy ending, and at times it’s a challenging read, but there are moments of sublime beauty for example, when Alice goes swimming in the ocean at night and her husband, rather than berating, her joins her.  Throughout the reader bears witness to an extremely bright narrator coping with her decaying brain.

Genova, like Alice, is also a neuroscientist; her writing is fantastic and the bold move to have an increasingly senile narrator as a focus is impressively pulled off. Given the strength of the central character I wasn’t surprised to learn that Genova initially self published this novel (it's since been published by Pocket Books in the UK). Since reading so many self-published novels I've begun to develop the thesis that self-published books expose the strength to go it alone in the feistiness of their central characters. I really did enjoy this book, even more so having learned of Genova’s academic and publishing credentials. I urge you to enrich your lives by reading this book.

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