- Hardcover: 128 pages
- Publisher: Jonathan Cape (4 April 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0224098152
- ISBN-13: 978-0224098151
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.8 x 20.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Levels of Life Hardcover – 4 Apr 2013
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"It is extraordinary... [It] would seem to pull off the impossible: to recreate, on the page, what it is like to be alive in the world." (Emma Brockes Guardian)
"This is a book of rare intimacy and honesty about love and grief. To read it is a privilege. To have written it is astonishing." (Ruth Scurr The Times)
"It's an unrestrained, affecting piece of writing, raw and honest and more truthful for its dignity and artistry... Anyone who has loved and suffered loss, or just suffered, should read this book, and re-read it, and re-read it." (Martin Fletcher Independent)
"Levels of Life is both a supremely crafted artefact and a desolating guidebook to the land of loss." (John Carey Sunday Times)
"While one might expect a Barnes book to impress, delight, move, disconcert or amuse, the last thing for which his work prepares us is the blast of paralysingly direct emotion that concludes Levels of Life." (Tim Martin Daily Telegraph)
This short, unconventional book is probably the most moving that Julian Barnes has ever writtenSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It's all too easy to skip over that wonderful opening, for it seems so abstract. But the passage crystallizes his theme. So, it probably helpful to go back to the opening passage from time to time in reading this short but moving book. Early ballooning, its novelty, its risks (and perhaps inevitable crashes and fatality) prove to be an insightful metaphor for the married life Barnes shared and then lost with Pat Kavanagh. The final chapter on Barnes' experience of the enduring pain of loss and grief, persisting as others around him cannot understand how utterly grief still grasps him, resembles nothing else one is likely to have read in so distilled a treatment.
The book should not be missed; few authors have had the capacity to write something so personal, yet so authentic and immediate that it speaks directly to a reader. Don't be put off by the initial oddity of the extended ballooning metaphor: it is integral to Barnes' experience and purpose and seems in its way like the extended metaphors (metaphysical conceits) of John Donne and others. Barnes' prose is spare and masterful, but one would expect that of him.
It's non fiction and autobiographical and is 118 pages long.
It weaves the history of hot air ballooning and the loss of author Julian Barnes' wife.
This combination may seem implausible, but somehow it works to great success.
The book is split into three sections:
1. The Sin of Height - the history of hot air ballooning. This section is very factual and unemotional. In fact I struggled to get into the book on three separate occassions because the beginning was so dry. It was worth persevering of course, as the book is exceptional and very different to anything I've ever read before.
2. On The Level - describes the personal relationship between two of the hot air balloonists from the first section.
3. The Loss of Depth - is written in the first person and solely about Julian Barnes' grief at losing his wife four years previously. It is beautifully written, very honest and in places sad, but mostly it is a testament to how much he loved her. I have never read a more accurate portrayal of bereavement, in either non fiction or fiction before. Whilst reading the last chapter, I found myself rationing the pages left to read, as I didn't want the book to end.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well written, intelligent and deeply moving literature about what it is to be human.
I would prefer not to give this a 'star-rating' as it surely cannot be defined as 'I love it', 'It's OK' etc., but Amazon's review system doesn't allow for the unrated or unrateable. It is undoubtedly skilfully written and moving in parts. It is, and I'm sorry to say it, also self-indulgent - while accepting that other people have undoubtedly undergone grief, Barnes writes as if he is the first to truly experience and understand it. It also seemed strange that this man in his sixties writes as if he is encountering grief for the first time in his life. I suspect he is subtly making a case for the grief of an uxorious husband (he uses the word uxorious himself, several times) being greater than other griefs.
I would, I suspect, have found this deeply moving had it been a letter from a close friend, but its intimacy is too intense - it left me with an uncomfortable sense of voyeurism. He criticises, in ways that I'm sure would enable them to recognise themselves, his friends' attempts to console him with clichéd expressions of condolence and encouragement. Have we not all felt that? But have we not all understood the genuine warmth behind these clichés and forgiven the clumsiness? Indeed, have we not all been as clumsy when the situation was reversed?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this having loved "The Sense of and Ending" but this story is very different. It's mainly about the history of hot air ballooning and a love story somewhere in... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Cicely
So deep and thoughtful. It's put into words my groping feelings for the desolate loss for my husband of forty years.Published 15 days ago by Kindle Customer
Two essays (in one case an essay with some historical fiction built into it) on the early history of ballooning set the stage for a memoir about the author's grief following the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by William Jordan
I am a fan, and as ever Mr Barnes puts another brill book out....worth itPublished 3 months ago by Thomas Small
Perceptive descriptions of grief, grieving and bereavement.Published 4 months ago by christine mclaren
A stunning book about bereavement. I recommend it if you are in a caring profession who works with the bereaved, or someone you love has died, or if a friend has a neighbour who... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Corky40
Nobody writes better than Julian Barnes. This book is so well written, so concise, and has so much meaning. It's to treasure.Published 6 months ago by Margaret