Book Reviews of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly A Memoir of Life in Death
Author: Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt (Translator)
ISBN-13: 9780375701214
ISBN-10: 0375701214
Publication Date: 1998
Pages: 144
Rating:
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 111

3.8 stars, based on 111 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

26 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 194 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
I read this book and cried at every page. The author had remarkable courage to write this book, through blinking his eyes- all done through a translater.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 92 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
If this was not a true story, I would absolutely not believe a word of it. The story is so incredible, but while you're reading it you actually get sucked in to the author's world where it's like, "yeah, this can be done." Every once in a while a reality check would hit me and WHAM - I'd be completely blown away by this incredible story again. I don't have many books on my keeper shelf, but luckily I ended up with 2 copies of this so I can share one with PBSers.

BTW - I have not seen the movie. I'm pretty sure I don't want to because the written word really brings out what is in the author's head. I don't think it will translate well to visual.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 481 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
A very innteresting look inside the the life of a paraplagic; the struggle of trying to overcome tragic circumstance. Bauby writes from within himself from his perspective of the mind. He shares what he 'sees' from within; his world has changed; he sees things much differently than he used to since he became a paraplagic. Bauby's book gives the reader much to poonder and contemplate. Many should read his book of collected thoughts and writing...
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 520 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This book deserves 5 stars based on the extraordinary efforts it took on the part of the author and his editorial team to tell it. This book could easily have been sad, but because of the author's beautiful writing and spirit is instead a bittersweet ode to the joys of life: family, food, love, etc. The book is slim and easily read in one session.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on
Helpful Score: 2
I can't say enough positive comments about this book. It takes my breath away, it's written so beautifully and the topics are so touching. I was constantly thinking about how Bauby dictated each letter, each phrase, and I was in awe during the entire book. I savored each little chapter and each thought. He uses language like art. I want to read the actual text in V.O. (version original), in French! The movie's VERY well done, too, by the way.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Truly remarkable story. It's one of those books that I just keep mulling over in my head. It's difficult to wrap my brain around the depth of this man's thoughts and feelings when he could only express them by blinking one eye. Incredible.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 1258 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Interesting. This story is one of amazing courage to show the struggle he feels trapped in his own body. As for spiritual, life changing, cry on every page, no not even close. Just an interesting look inside the thoughts and frustrations of Jean-Dominique Bauby after his stroke.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 30 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
As a nurse, this book gave me insight into what some of my patients go through. I felt for Jean. What it must have been like,I can't imagine. Jean was very eloquent and spoke from the heart. A quick read, but a good one.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on
Helpful Score: 1
First of all, I found the premise--that Bauby blinked the whole book out with one eyelid--a little tough to swallow... But I tried to put that aside as I figured it really wouldn't be that highly important of a detail in the grand scheme of things (and for the record, I am no more convinced after reading it... but all skeptism aside if the man did I feel painfully sorry for him in all the editing he must have wished he could have gotten across to her, because it would have been somewhat maddening... as there are a few parts that fall particularly short and he should have been more capable... she on the other hand was a budding fledgling given the dauntingly laborious task of dictating the modified alphabet at nauseum and transcribing blinks, who probably would have wanted to present the finished result quicker--so as to get on with proving herself and such--than would have happened if she'd attempted to edit it with him, and I suppose one could not really blame her given the hold it must have put on her life and career... though considering, perhaps she should have as it would have likely strengthened her capacity to be an editor in future projects... although I will try to find a copy of the french to give it another shot before completely writing her off as it could be due in part to translation...)... but all the hows and structure aside, it is largely redeemed by the whats of the story and by much of the imagery...

and it was a story worth reading, emotional but also at time amusing... and sure, you'll probably find tons of reviews out there harping on the sad and bittersweet parts but there are little gems and snippets that get through that seem particularly telling of his personality as much so as the non-amusing moments... and of course there were even disturbingly bizarre moments too (like the whole longing to lick ice cream off young sunburnt skin moment, huh?) but part of what likely captures people is the sort of stream of consciousness peep show aspect of things... it's like hanging out with a friend and capturing random moments in a journal... there's the stories of fond moments, the lusting reminiscence after good food days gone past, the recounting of daydreams (my favorite being the stained glass woman morphing one), and of course the oh-no-he-didn't moments...

all in all it is the story of a very interesting man, and limited though it may be and wanting though you may find yourself after finishing it... it does provide an inspiration to live with new verve I suppose... I mean yes, people say it incessantly about this book and maybe for the same reasons as I and maybe just because of the gratefulness of not being a drooling, leaky eyed, immobile invalid and the whole shock value that provides to some regarding their ungrateful moanings about their own less severe circumstances... but it is none-the-less true...

and he's inspiring not because of his career, or his young mistress, or his long-standing nonmarriage with his children's mother who still by some notable credit cared deeply for him in spite of the pain he caused her, or even because of some sentimental or empathic tug regarding his post-accident condition and outlook... but to me, his draw is rather in the smaller things... and in his apparently overlooked snarkiness (all anyone seems to want say about him is his "optimism" and "positive outlook" etc)... he's wonderfully sarcastic and tongue in cheek he has an off-color sense of humor that peeks thru and while there where a few references to that snarkiness in the movie, it gets very easily lost, and is more notable in the book... and deeply, deeply amusing...

All in all, I'm glad I read it... and I really would recommend it. I mean there are some really beautiful parts and some poorly constructed parts but even at it's troubled spots it is about a captivating man and hence redeemable. The book is more about Bauby while the movie is more focused on those surrounding Bauby... the movie also seemed to create a flurry of activity around him containing much less down time, while some of the book's best moments fall in periods of down time... so I'd say the book is not particularly spoiled by watching the movie because there is still so much to discover... the director talked with the people who'd been around JD and seems to have relied more heavily on those accounts to construct the film and then interspersed it with quotes from the book as parts of Bauby's inner dialogue... and if you don't like the movie, still give the book a chance as it was significantly more interesting... and even if you are skeptical of the premise (as I was and still am) it is worth reading... So go get the book already!
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Felled by a stroke to the brain stem that left him victim of the 'locked-in syndrome', Bauby nevertheless managed to compose this remarkable memoir of his life before and after the calamity. I listened to the audio book read by Rene Auberjonois whose French accent lent credence to the author's words. This is undoubtedly one of the 20 best works I have ever read!! His use of words, descriptive phrases, similes and metaphors delighted my wordy brain. Hard to believe that someone in such dire cirumstances could be witty but he frequently was. What a great read!
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 23 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book and could not put it down. It is beautifully written, and very short, so a weekend is ample enough time to savor it. A good read if you're feeling sorry for yourself... profound, yet simple, the touching images put forth by the author are ever more astounding when you read how he managed to write this book.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A truly inspiring book about what a person can accomplish and overcome. Very well written.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I could not put this down once I started it. I read it in one afternoon.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 381 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43 year old editor of French "Elle" suffered a massive stroke that left him completely and permanently paralyzed, a victim of "locked-in syndrome."
This is a great read.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 160 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is Jean-Dominique Bauby's reflection on what it's like to live with locked-in syndrome. It is a bit hard to follow at times since it's basically his train of thought, but it is a very inspirational and quick read at 132 pages.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 20 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Interesting true story of a man stricken with "locked in syndrome". Sad, and inspiring.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on
I was compelled to read this after having seen the movie. Intriguing
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 6 more book reviews
Amazing book. At points a little confusing but considering it was written by the blinking of an eye it is truly unbelievable! A show into the true strength of the human soul!
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 10 more book reviews
Amazing story of Jean-Dominique Bauby and his life after suffering a devastating stroke and how blinking with his eyes is the only way he can communicate to others and his ability to tell his story this way with the help of his friend. A book not to be missed.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was living a relatively successful life. He was forty-three-years-old; a doting father to two young children with a rewarding career. As the editor-in-chief for the French magazine, Elle, he was a man who was highly regarded by his colleagues. He was someone who was deeply loved and held in the highest esteem for his sharp wit, his indomitable sense of style, and his impassioned approach to life.

However, by the end of the year in 1995, Jean-Dominique had suffered a major health crisis that effectively knocked his world off its axis. He became the victim of an extremely rare kind of stroke to the brain stem. After twenty days spent in a coma, Jean-Dominique eventually awoke inside of a body that had essentially stopped working: only his left eye functioned properly, allowing him to see, and, by blinking, to clearly impart to others that his mind remained unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to communicate with others; relearning the ability to express himself in the richest detail, using a unique form of the alphabet.

It was by blinking to select letters one by one as this special alphabet was slowly recited to him, over and over again, that Jean-Dominique learned to communicate again with those around him. In the same unique way, he was eventually able to compose this extraordinary book. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," thus managing to keep in touch with himself and the life around him.

At times wistful, mischievous, angry and witty, Jean-Dominique bears witness to his inherent determination to live life as fully within his mind as he had once been able to in his body. He explains the joy, and the deep sadness, he feels at seeing his children; at hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times; of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of his book. Yet The Diving Bell and the Butterfly remains as a poignant testimony to a lifetime well-lived - a lasting testament to life itself. Already being greeted with extraordinary acclaim - this is the astonishing, profoundly moving memoir of a man afflicted by locked-in syndrome, a state of almost total paralysis that leaves the victim, in the author's own words, "like a mind in a jar."

Given the serious topic of this book, Mr. Bauby writes his story without a hint of self-indulgence. I was expecting that there might be a certain amount of bitterness, anger, or depression for his situation that Mr. Bauby was feeling - a sense of sorrow for the way his life turned out. Instead, I found it to be a remarkably poignant and courageous memoir, still surprisingly hopeful even in the face of such a devastating illness.

While Mr. Bauby had such incredible difficulty in creating this book, not an ounce of that struggle to communicate is found in his writing. There was an easiness to his writing style that I really appreciated. I give this book an A!
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 60 more book reviews
"After suffering a massive stroke, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French Elle and the father of two young children found himself competely paralysed, speechless and only able to move one eyelid. With his eyelid he 'dictated' this remarkable book."

Moving, compelling, positive and fascinating. Not morbid.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on
Quick read, beautifully written, thought provoking. Good book club discussion book.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 92 more book reviews
This small book of essays was written by the 43 year old French editor of Elle magazine who suffered a stroke and could only communicate by blinking one eye. An amazing feat.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 66 more book reviews
Really incredible memoir.
reviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : A Memoir of Life in Death on + 9 more book reviews
Memoir of a man in state of virtually total paralysis but fully conscious.
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From what I've read, and from the raving reviews this book received, I hold a minority and unpopular opinion. In my opinion, this is a really dull and forgettable book. After reading the overwhelmingly positive reviews, I really wanted to read it, and I kept reading ... even though I was not at all captivated by the material ... kept waiting for it to get better. Never did. I just have to wonder, if maybe people are swayed by the obstacles the author had to overcome in order to make this book possible, and maybe are swayed by the fact that he died days after it was released, and that maybe ... just maybe ... the tragedy of the reality of the creation and fruition of the book itself lends a little too thick of a lens through which one views the material ... maybe? If the book had been written as a work of fiction from a fully functioning, still healthy author, would it still have had operatic praise from the critics? Take my review, for example. You might read it and think "She sounds really stupid and uninformed, I don't like her review." Now, imagine that while I was writing this review, my toes were being chopped off one by one and the room was slowly collapsing in on me, yet I continued typing the review. Would you be much more impressed if that were the case? Sure you would, and that's what I'm wondering about all the hoopla about this book. We all know people who tell you "Oh, you just MUST read this book, it will enrich your life, it is a classic, you will never take life for granted again." and you read the book they tell you about, and think "... great, that's a few hours of my life I'll never get back, but now I can be pretentious and discuss the meaningfullness of human triumph and overcoming adversity next time I'm talking to someone I want to impress..." but you don't actually feel that it impacted your life at all. Anyway, that's how I feel about this book. It has been SO praised and SO held in esteem and has been SUCH AN INSPIRATION to so many people who I guess are smarter than me, that I felt I had to read it, but holy biscuits with gravy on top, it was duller than anything I can remember. I'm sorry, I wanted to like it, but I didn't. Anyway, it's a short book, and people who seem to be really smart are really impressed by it, so read it so that you can talk to all the smart people about it. You can have my copy, I don't plan on keeping it. Did ... I just read they made a MOVIE about this book? Really? Why? Well, maybe I'll get the movie, maybe that might be a little more stimulating to my pedestrian brain than this book.