Two Inspiring Tales of Entrapment: The Visitors, and The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly

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In July, I unintentionally read two books in a row telling the stories of people who feel trapped in their own minds or bodies. One is the story of a deafblind girl, the other of a paralysed magazine editor. Here are a few thoughts.

The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull

A beautiful story about a deafblind girl, Adeliza, living in the Victorian era on a hop farm with her father and sickly mother. She has no way to experience the outside world other than through touch, until she meets Lottie, a worker on the farm, who begins to spell words out to her on her palm. Slowly she begins to learn more about the world, through having books read to her and the items she once felt finally having names. This is Mascull's debut and, admittedly, I did enjoy it less than The Song of the Sea Maid, but the first half of the book still remains to be one of the most beautiful, sensual things I've ever read. The descriptions of how Adeliza experienced the world where stunning and I sped through that first half completely engrossed. The second half gripped me slightly less, becoming more of a romance-based storyline, but the events that occurred were still interesting and wonderfully written. Song of the Sea Maid still wins out for me over The Visitors, but both are so beautifully written, they wont leave my thoughts anytime soon.

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

This is the memoir of a former editor of French Elle who becomes completely paralysed after a rare, life-threatening stroke. The only part of his body he can move is his left eyelid (the right eye was sewn closed after an infection), and this is how he dictated his story. Through a series of blinks, he created this memoir with his 'translator', detailing his life after the stroke and how he copes with living an experience that feels like living under a giant diving-bell, leaving his body through his thoughts like a butterfly. This book is incredibly short, but immensely beautiful. Bauby had a poetic way of seeing a world he could not interact with, and this is a fascinating way into seeing how the mind copes alone when it is the only thing left.

M x

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