Tuesday, November 18, 2008

book review - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The way things usually work is that you read the book then go to see the film and spend the rest of the evening grumbling about how the printed word was so much superior. But with this book it was the film that drove me to pick up the novella.

The story of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s last few months after he slipped into a state that left him unable to use anything to communicate other than his left eyelid is not only inspirational but a testament to the power of the imagination.

The film is faithful to the book and both have the ability to move you as a person who could have folded in on themselves completely allows his mind to live beyond the confines of his body and the hospital.

The reason why this was an international nest seller is partly because the story inspires such interest but also because once you are listening to the voice it reminds you of how much gets taken for granted and how little we all live, despite being able bodied and free of movement.

Having locked-in syndrome following a massive stroke leaves him feeling as if he is in a diving bell when his mind still has the ability to soar and fly like a butterfly.

His imagination allows him not only to give nicknames to everyone around him and humanise a very difficult situation but also conjure up ghosts of the past with his imagination bringing the Empress who established the hospital back to life.

What makes this even more poignant is the life he had before the stroke. As editor in chief of Elle he travelled the world, enjoyed the luxuries of moving in social circles that included film stars and musicians and he was about to get his hands on the car of his dreams.

Although a short book it leaves you thinking and makes you question the way you live your life, why we all waste so much time chasing nonsense and just how brave we would be in a similar situation.

When you realise the book was dictated through the blinking of an eye it also makes you realise just how precious and powerful words on a page can be.


Anonymous said...

Hello Simon,

I thought the movie was one of those rare examples when the portrayal on screen matched exactly what I had in my own mind from reading the book.



Simon Quicke said...

Totally agree.