Ok. To begin, I'm not rating this book a five star because everyone else has. Although, to be fair, I would have done so just to keep it up. But realistically, this book is WORTH the five star- and then some. Beautifully lyrical and utterly captivating, Anthony Burgess takes us into the mind of a troubled young man, Alex, and the story of discovery made in the face of moral ambiguity and government interference.
Alex is, as any person would admit, a hooligan. He and his droogs (friends) love to bully and beat people to the extreme. This book is definitely violent. There is no getting around that. And disturbing. I was surprised at just how soon Burgess introduces the reader to Alex's debauchery and ruthlessness. The infamous rape scene, made to important top ten lists of disturbing movie scenes just about every year, was just the beginning of Alex's downfall. I've never seen the movie, but just reading this scene made me uneasy and uncomfortable. Which to me, is a sign of a well written book.
I, like many others, found the language Burgess uses to be slightly difficult, but he does introduce it in such a way that by chapter 2, you get a hang of the language and it becomes just as natural for you to read as regular English (or British English, if you prefer). To be honest, those around Alex who were part of outside world (the police, government, his parents) I had a harder time understanding than Alex because you become so used to the nadsat (made up slang) language.
The dichotomy of Alex's character is so brilliant and beautiful. He is a young man with violent tendencies and yet loves classical music, Beethoven and his ninth symphony to be exact. And it's with this brilliance in writing that the reader then begins to root and grow sympathetic to Alex, even though we know that he has done some heinous crimes, and would commit them again if he could. The idea, at first, of a cure for him seems great but then as we see the cure in effect, the reader begins to realize that Alex as himself is better than the Alex of the cure. And that is a scary thought. I am certainly very glad to have read the edition that had the original final chapter included. I think that it tied up loose ends and gave a closer look at how people can choose differently, so long as it's of their own volition.
I (sadly) picked this copy up from the library, so it does have to be returned. But I will be buying this soon to keep on my shelf. There were so many beautiful passages that begged to be underlined and a book that would love to be read again and again.