Still Alice written by Lisa Genova
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Book review compiled by Adeleigh van der Westhuizen and Sanet du Toit
Still Alice, brilliantly written by Lisa Genova, pulls the reader into the world of a person with a progressive, deteriorating and memory-stealing beast called Alzheimer’s Disease. Genova creates understanding of the hurt and frustration this disease causes, not only for family members, but even more so within the person fighting the beast.
The story is about Alice Howland, who was a professor in Cognitive Psychology at Harvard for twenty five years, a researcher in the mechanisms of language and brilliant representative of Harvard in her lectures all over the world. And most of all Alice is still the wife of John, a mother of three and soon-to-be grandmother of twins.
After finding herself lost in Harvard Square and forgetting how to make her famous Christmas bread pudding, Alice decides to see a Neurologist and the label of her diagnosis rips her world apart. She becomes overwhelmed in an ocean of tests while waves of stress break onto her family. Her cocktail of medication can at best only delay the beast’s ultimate course as it devours the pieces of her life bite by bite.
Slowly her career, knowledge and memories of her family members fade. She starts to forget her oldest daughter and even though Alice recognises and experiences love between the beautiful women sitting across her and herself, she does not recognise her as her actress daughter, Lydia. However, she is able to love and cry and laugh and experience emotions that she always could and the advice she gives to her daughter is priceless and true. It is heartbreaking when the reader finally realises the intense emotions that Alice experiences when she answers with tears in her eyes that her daughter’s monologue is about love. She is still Alice.
The last long sections of the book are rather depressing and in a sense lifeless – Ending the book in a sombre mood and perhaps too over-realistically in some ways.