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4.5 out of 5 stars176
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on 8 February 2001
After reading this book I was staggered that someone who had suffered such a horrific blow could find the tenacity and patience to produce such a moving account of his experience. It must have been an exhausting process which would explain that is is a relatively short book, but every word is incredibly powerful as you imagine the effort that was made just to get it onto the page. Absolutely astonishing, and a tragedy that he was not able to live to see the success of the book, or have any hope of recovery
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on 26 August 2008
This is possibly the worst situation anyone could ever be in yet, Bauby tried his hardest to remain positive and showed heroic humour throughout the entire book. Whilst an unbelievably sad situation, the book is not depressing.

You can read the whole book quite quickly. Even those who don't read often can enjoy this reasonably short story with a huge positive impact.

For me, this book has reunited myself with the life we are supposed to be living. Appreciating whatever little we might have, whether it be the ability of complete or limited physical movement, or material possessions, we are unable to enjoy them if we don't appreciate them.

We must stop and smell the flowers more, or watch a butterfly in action when we have the opportunity. For me, doing these kinds of things, honours Bauby more as it is my way of showing appreciation of his efforts to survive in a crushed state.

For now, Jean-Dominique Bauby can rest in peace. And in the day of resurrection, he shall walk, talk and enjoy the real life again.
John 5:21, 28 & 29
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on 18 May 2005
This book is unashamedly and quite correctly all about the author. Jean-Dominique Bauby was a 'name' in his former life as editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine. After his stroke which led to the extremely rare condition of Locked-In-Syndrome he has become a 'name' once more as a truly remarkable human being and an inspirational author.
Only able to comunicate via blinking his left eye, Bauby saw his body as nothing more than an empty chamber (the diving bell of the title), but his soul, his spirituality was unimpared (his butterfly).
In theory this book could have been a potentially dire experience of a brave human being doing his best to put across the awful state of LIS. In reality Bauby certainly does get across his extreme frustration of his condition and yet he also finds time and space within the book to take you on a journey into his soul and share the experiences of his thoughts, some of which are just poetically beautiful.
A charming yet sad book which offers a different interpretation of love life and everything.
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on 8 January 2008
It's been a long time since I read this book but it has stayed with me, it packs a huge emotional punch and is simply brilliant. Reading it opens up so many thoughts and feelings, it really makes you think about your life.
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on 24 May 2000
Everyone should read this book. It is the most moving, uplifting and inspirational book I have ever read. This man put so much effort and so much of himself into this book, that the least the rest of the world can do is read it. If you read French, read the book in French, if not - make do with the English translation, it is excellent. I defy anyone to find a more touching and more carefully crafted book in any language.
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on 2 February 2009
At just over one hundred pages long this book may not seem remarkable on the surface but when one considers that its author can only communicate through the blinking of one eye, and dictated his novel through this medium, the book's existence is remarkable enough. That it is equal parts fascinating, witty and poignant is testament to the author.

Bauby suffered a massive stroke causing him to suffer from Locked-In Syndrome, almost completely paralysed save for his left eye. He was the editor in chief of Elle magazine in France and a popular 44 year old, in an instant he would be a 'vegetable' as some called him for the rest of his life. Cognitively sound, Bauby's attempts at keeping sane and flights of mental fancy are here dictated as his memoirs. Snippets of his former and current life flutter in front of him and the reader like the titular butterfly. He compares his locked-in existence to being in a diving bell, isolated and away from the world.

His father lives in mirrored isolation, locked in his apartment due to his age and fragility. This poignant anecdote is one of many. He sentimentalises, but not too much, he inspires more. This book has been said to show what it is to be human.

What it is to be human would appear to be a natural sense of ambivalence:

''One day . . . I can find it amusing, in my 45th year, to be cleaned up and turned over, to have my bottom wiped and swaddled like a newborn's. I even derive a guilty pleasure from this total lapse into infancy. But the next day, the same procedure seems to me unbearably sad, and a tear rolls down through the lather a nurse's aide spreads over my cheeks.''

The titular diving bell is Bauby's prison of a body, the butterfly his imagination: ''There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court.''

''You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it's a restaurant, no need to call ahead. . . . The boeuf bourguignon is tender, the boeuf en gelee translucent, the apricot pie possesses just the requisite tartness.''

This book is a humbling, sometimes uncomfortable experience and testament to what it truly is to be human.
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on 3 November 2007
This short, simple book reminds us of the frailty of human existence and just how much we take for granted. I feel that the Diving Bell represents the submerged trapped emotions of the author, the dark and lonely place he finds himself in, also the dead weight of his physical inability as well as the inability to express himself. Almost like a bad dream where you are unable to move and you try to scream but the sound doesn't form. A man trapped in his own body, physically unable to move or speak, a prisoner within himself yet the mind fully functional. The only way to communicate, blinking his left eye, his window to the world, which flutters excessively to dictate every word, sentence and paragraph that forms this creation. The Butterfly representing the imagination, the intricate workings of the mind and perhaps also the hope that the author might eventually be freed from his cocoon like existence. The butterfly, highly symbolic representing transition and change, often painful, but also conveying colour, movement, beauty and ultimately new life and freedom. The author died shortly after this work was published, but he leaves a book that almost urges us to embrace our natural freedom and not build self imposed prisons of fear in our lives when one could so easily be thrust upon us. The mind should always roam free no matter what other limitations may be imposed, the spirit taking it's own direction, the individual remaining true to themselves, just as Jean Dominique Bauby did when he told his story.
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on 18 October 2007
My partner recommended this book to me and I wasn't really sure to what to expect; but I read the book in around an hour and a half, devouring every description. Afterwards, we discussed the book and he couldn't quite pinpoint what makes it such an excellent book, but I think that it makes you happy to be alive, makes you want to make the most of every day you have. It is so sad that 'Jean-Do' and others experience this feeling of being trapped, but it is admirable that the author presents the condition in the way he does. I enjoyed this book in so many ways as, despite it being quite a short text, you feel that you really know the man by the end.
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on 10 December 1998
This is the sort book which you will read in one sitting. This is more than an autobiography, it's a diary of a life shattering event. The tragic story is written without self pity. Jean-Dominique was left paralysed after a stroke leaving him only able to comunicate with his left eye. The book was actually dictated by him in hospital ward to his secretary to whom he dedicated the book. This is a true tale which is unforgetable and leaves the reader with a sense of wonder at one man's determination. So stop moaning about not having any money, or the state of the weather, read this and appreciate what you do have.
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on 9 May 2001
Without question this eloquant book is a must read book. Written with courage and conviction that sets out in a unique way a simplicity that will inspire anybody from those who see people in this condition to people far removed from disability and suffering. This book has been written at a time when technology hasn't caught up with conditions such as this. Tdoay we are able to do much more for such people with high and low technology solutions. This is an inspiration to us all.
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