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THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY By; Jean-Dominique Bauby November 27, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     It seems that the minute Thanksgiving is past, everyone begins to forget their blessings and starts grousing about the cost of things and how much they have to do while Christmas shopping. But this selection, a French memoir entitled THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY by Jean-Dominique Bauby, will ground everyone — fast.

     This is the amazing and true story of an Elle magazine (French edition) editor who suddenly suffers a stroke and becomes trapped in what is called “locked-in syndrome”. He is now a paraplegic who can communicate only by blinking his one eye (the other is sewn shut because the lid no longer works.)  The diving bell in the title refers to the author’s sensation of being just out of  reach of the ability to interact, as if a diving bell has been lowered over him. The book deals mainly with his present situation, but we do also get a glimpse into his life as it was before. He was like the rest of us — he had so much and appreciated so little.
     The writing is beautiful, and if you are wondering how he wrote the book, prepare for the biggest shock. He had to be helped along by someone who recited the alphabet to him. When they got to the letter he wanted, he would blink. Then they would start at the beginning again to get the next letter. In this way, they would form words, sentences, and then paragraphs. And that is how every single lovely word of this book came to be. Bauby (pictured left while working on the book) died of pneumonia two days after this memoir was published in March of 1997.
     I also watched the movie, and it is as amazing as the book. Yes, it has subtitles. Suck it up!  It is very well done, and worth your rapt attention. What I did was read the book, watch the movie, and then was compelled to read the book again.
     This is a selection you will never forget, and at least for a while, one you won’t be able to stop talking about; in part, perhaps, because you will be so happy for possessing the ability to talk. You will want to tell many others about it, and since this is a small book, it’s the perfect gift to tuck into the stockings of the biggest cry babies and loudest complainers on your Christmas list. It is just as wonderful a gift, of course, for people who appreciate life and those who love to read.



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