19 August 2020

Book Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

So, I read this slim volume. But after reading it, I don't know how to react. In any case, I ask myself, am I heartless?

Perhaps I was primed by the fact that I knew there's a movie created after this book, and that I know that the movie, while I have not seen it, was apparently well-received. I mean, if you know the background to the book, that the book was written by an author who was suffering from locked-in syndrome after a stroke, and that the book was essentially dictated to someone who was reading out the French alphabet reordered by frequency, where the author would then blink his left eye when the correct letter was reached, then it would be a massively inspiring thing. You would realise that some people definitely have a strong will to live. You will realise how colourful the author's brain was, even when his body prevented him from manifesting that fact. But in any case, after reading this book, perhaps I expected to be awed, yet the awe somehow was just not there.

The book consists of several short snippets, each covering a subject. It can be mundane to readers like me who have control of regular physical faculties, since we all take things for granted, yet for the author, these are suddenly recast as extraordinary things. And yes, I can reflect on these little snippets, and realise how fortunate I am to still have a fully-functioning body. But beyond that realisation, is there still some further reaction that is expected from me, as a regular reader without a disability?

Maybe I just biased myself because of some perceived hype. But it felt like this book was too easy, easy to read, and easy to put back in the shelf. Did I like it? Sure. Was it mind-blowing? Not quite. I am sure the author's situation is indeed mind-blowing, but perhaps how it was conveyed in the book didn't fully convey the gravity of things. Or maybe I just have too high expectations.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. As you can see, I am not too excited about it.

See my other book reviews here.

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