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4.4 out of 5 stars127
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2013
This is a very short book at less than a 120 pages - but such is its artistry that it says so much more than many a bloated 600 page so-called literary masterpiece.There are three sections - the first a factual account of the early days of hot air ballooning and photography, the second a fictionalised account of the love affair between two of the real life characters mentioned in the first part. The final section is memoir - a first person account of the impact on Julian Barnes of the death of his wife. It is extremely moving and part of its power is the way that Barnes revisits the the first two parts and their metaphors and images in such resonant ways. This book is about the heights to which love can take you, about being on the 'level', and about times when there appears to be no depth at all. Highly recommended.
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on 21 December 2015
Arrived promptly as promised. Excellent writing. Short book, big themes, warrants a slow or repeated read. Most valuable.
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on 2 July 2014
bought for the last section which is very worthwhile. The first two take a bit of dedication to get the most from.
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on 9 June 2014
One of the most insightful books I have read and one of those books you will want to keep and read again.
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on 4 December 2015
Well written and great comfort, especially if you are dealing with your own grief.
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Opening the heart to the loss of the loved one is an almost impossible task. Julian Barnes has committed himself to expunge himself of an emotion that never leaves. Grief hits with a sledge-hammer or contrives to build up into a sinister emotion that someday will burst. The effects are the same. Sympathy and extended arms of friendship do not deal with the inner turmoils. Julian Barnes has chewed on the death of his love, friend, counsellor and whatever we will never know. His catharsis in writing is short but to the point. Encapsulating the plights of others ( balloonist Gaspard-Felix Tournachon and Sarah Bernhardt) are merely masking and embroidering the emotions of the author. This book is a deeply personal insight into a man who has lost the will to live, yet realises the drama has to go somewhere. Dark thoughts pervade and probably always will.

Personal sympathies from us all are with Julian Barnes but we lack the words or the honesty of shouting the agony of pain that is not physical but borne of love. Professionally, my involvement with children and adults with terminal illnesses and personal wrenching heartache (my father had an inoperable brain tumour) bring the traumas over the door-step. A read that is far from comfortable but irrepressible in its content. Life ends, of course. The remnants are memories in one form or another. Dealing with them is another matter. Words may be a comfort but we are not all in the author's position to air them.
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on 2 November 2014
Wonderful, insightful book, especially for anyone suffering bereavement.
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on 9 February 2014
This book is in two parts but I have only read the second half. When I bought the book following the death of my dear wife,of 52 years, twelve months previously I was plodding along trying to cope with my grief. I found Julian Barnes account of his journey through his grief, following the death of his wife, most helpful in helping me to understand mine. I miss my wife so much whilst trying to move on but at times when I feel low it helps to dip into Levels of Life. It has certainly helped me.
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on 26 April 2013
The hot air ballooning part of the book is very interesting, but if you have ever suffered a bereavment, read the second half of the book. His words perfectly describe the feelings one has following a death. Also if you know someone who has been bereaved, read this book , before telling the bereaved that they will 'soon move on' or that they should be over it by now, or any other words not based on your opinion rather than your experience of bereavment. A guide to the death of a loved one.
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on 14 April 2013
A beautifully crafted book in three parts. The third part really needs to be read more than once. Through his grief Julian Barnes raises some pertinent questions about how we deal not just with loss but how we interact with those who are grieving. And importantly that the is no timeframe for grief - it might never end - and we should be able to acknowledge that, accept it and not judge because of it. This book is worth your time.
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