This autobiography tells the story of the author, a middle-aged Frenchman, Editor of Elle magazine, who has a stroke and wakes up with locked-in syndrome. He learns to communicate using one eye and over the course of a summer writes his story.
Despite being about such a terrible event and the even more awful consequences, this is a really up-lifting book. It’s beautifully written with lots of short chapters, almost like little cameos of his new life. It is gently humorous ; he pokes fun at himself, his condition, his friends, family and the nursing staff.
As can be seen by the title, Bauby writes quite metaphorically, using the imagery to try to explain his physical condition- whilst the diving bell weighs him down and anchors him firmly to the bed, his mind takes flight like a butterfly.
The only time I felt sad reading this novel was when I read the final date knowing that Bauby survived long enough to see his novel published but no longer. He has such a wonderful, rich imagination and such a positive outlook on what must have been a hellish situation, it feels wrong that he should not have survived.
Everyone should read this novel.