Title: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Author: Jean-Dominique Bauby
Overall Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 4 of 5
Author synopsis from Amazon:
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.
By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father’s voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an “inexhaustible reservoir of sensations,” keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.
Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
This book is a lasting testament to his life.
I read this book as part of a school assignment this week. It only took me a day. It gives a great picture, I think, into the human side of this condition — for both the patient, and those around him/her. And for those struggling with a similar condition, I would also recommend this book. Having worked with multiple stroke cases, not only in a rehabilitation facility, but also on a few hospital floors, I myself have seen some of the things Bauby talks about. A must-read for medicine-related professions, and a should-read for everyone else, I think this book worthy of an overall rating of 4 out of 5, being only slightly confusing to the reader in some parts of the book. The overall family friendliness is also a 4 out of 5, because there are some things I would deem unsuitable for very young children. That being said, I would recommend this read to teenagers who are interested in volunteering at hospitals, or have been faced with a situation similar to what Bauby describes.