Still Alice …. The book

by MrHughesReviews

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The film of the book, Still Alice by Lisa Genova has just been released, I urge you to read the book before you head off to the cinema. The film has had some great reviews, but it is a missed opportunity not to read the story before you see the characters played out on film by familiar Hollywood faces.  The book is the poignant storytelling of a woman affected by Alzheimer’s. This is particularly resonant  if you have been touched by this terrible disease yourself,   I read this when my own mother was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s a few years back. Like the fictional Alice, my mother’s was early onset dementia, she was officially diagnosed at 60 but had struggled for many years beforehand.  My mothers decline saw her past crumbling away into an abyss and a mercurial present that was running away from her increasingly each day, leaving her and us confused, frustrated and afraid.  

Still Alice was given as a gift by a friend.  I started the book with a mixture of feelings, I had by this time read some real life accounts, some funny, all tragic and each bringing a sense of familiarity and understanding of this far-reaching problem. My initial concerns that this would be a schmaltzy, saccharine Hallmark Channel style story were allayed early on.   A fictional story, Still Alice is written, uniquely from the Alzheimer’s sufferers perspective. The book plays out her frustrations, fear, denial, anger and the huge memory voids rained down on Alzheimer’s sufferers.  And the impact of that on family.

This is the synopsis from Amazon …..

When Alice finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer’s Disease she is just fifty years old. A university professor, wife, and mother of three, she still has so much more to do – books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But when she can’t remember how to make her famous Christmas pudding, when she gets lost in her own back yard, when she fails to recognise her actress daughter after a superb performance, she comes up with a desperate plan. But can she see it through? Should she see it through? Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short-term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. But she is still Alice.

On reading the book, it brought to me a better level of understanding of how my mother must have felt in those early days. The days when she would call her sister on the way to work to ask her how she could get to her office, she had forgotten the way. Her repetition of sometimes inappropriate phrases addressed to the general public, that at best were irritating and at worst toe-curlingly embarrassing and offensive, often requiring a hasty apology and retreat. Compulsions and frustrating childlike behaviour and a world that increasingly became self-centred and selfish. Yes, my selfless mother became at times a selfish, truculent child. But overwhelmingly still lovable, lucky us as some are not so lucky and the effects of the disease can leave behind a spiteful or aggressive adult-sized child and someone far removed from the person you once loved and shared a life with.  

The desperate plan that Alice has made for herself in the story is brutal (and frightening) but the book did much to explain how the sufferer is feeling and its conclusion gave me great comfort.   I have a LOT to say about Alzheimer’s but it’s rather a piece waiting to be written still, I will get it done, but in the meantime DO READ THE BOOK! 

“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”
                                                                                                             ― Lisa Genova, Still Alice