Remember in my last book review how I wrote that I was going to be writing again soon about a book that I enjoyed less than the movie? That would be Lisa Genova’s Still Alice.
Right off the bat, however, let me clarify some things about that statement. First, I think Genova’s story of well-respected linguistics professor Alice Howland’s decline from early onset Alzheimer’s disease is unflinching, devastating brilliance. I couldn’t put down the novel, no matter how haunting or painful it was to continue. As I’ve mentioned here before, Alzheimer’s took my grandmother from us slice by brutal slice, so this story was particularly upsetting at points. However, it also bore a message of determination and survival as well as a plea that we not shut out those with Alzheimer’s as though they were no longer a worthy part of our lives or the world in general. They cannot halt what is happening to them, but they continue to need the same things we all do: interaction, acceptance, love, strength, kindness.
That all being said, I don’t necessarily think I would use the word “enjoyed” in reference to this book. It’s like saying you enjoyed Sophie’s Choice. You can appreciate the craftsmanship of the story, the power of the narrative, the thematic impact. But enjoy? I don’t know about that, although I suppose the somewhat open-ended conclusion of the book and movie provide a final bit of silver lining to Alice’s admittedly ever-darkening cloud.
Finally, I would place the movie version of this book higher than the book. Why? Two words: Julianne Moore. A sublime actress, Moore brings Alice to life in ways that will destroy you. Few have deserved an Oscar more than she did for this performance. I believe she also is the reason that I ultimately rate the movie higher than the book. She lifted this character from the page and pushed her into existence honestly, eloquently, and with purest humility. She released all inhibition and gave herself to the role in a way that few can truly and convincingly do. If for Moore only, I recommend the movie more than the book, although I’m all for tackling both and doing your own comparison.
Final Verdict: In both book and cinematic form, this is a story whose value I can acknowledge. It also is a story I don’t particularly ever want to revisit.