The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Having just finished this book, I am not sure what to make of it.  Jean Dominique Bauby was the Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine, and had a full and happy life until he suffered a massive stroke in December 1995, and was left paralysed, and only able to communicate by blinking his left eyelid.  And with a patient transcriber, this is how he dictated this book, in which he describes his life now, and details small vigniettes of his life before he fell ill.  To write anything under such circumstances would be an amazing achievement, and in that sense, this book is a testament to the human spirit.  However, it left me feeling strangely detached about what must have been one man’s living hell. 

The problem with the book as far as I was concerned, was that I never felt as a reader, able to connect with the narrator.  I was not able to visualise the people in his life as ‘real’ people, although they most certainly are.

There were a few touching chapters – one where he describes his children visiting him on Father’s Day, when he is distressed at not being able to hug his son or run his fingers through the boys hair; and the chapter where he describes the events which happened shortly before the stroke.

I have seen this book described as ‘life affirming’, which I am afraid to say I don’t particularly agree with (although at one point, it did make me think that I should stop getting upset about insignificant things at work, and count my blessings).  However, all that is not to say that I did not enjoy the book – I did enjoy it, but I was left feeling somewhat unmoved by it.

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