Summary

”You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed…”
Julian Barnes's new book is about ballooning, photography, love and grief; about putting two things, and two people, together, and about tearing them apart.
One of the judges who awarded him the 2011 Man Booker Prize described him as “an unparalleled magus of the heart”. This book confirms that opinion.
©2014 Audible, Inc. (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Susan on 05-12-13

Truthful and painful

What did you like most about Levels of Life?

The link between the ballooning and living after a death, and the very truthful and thoughtless things people say and do to a bereaved person. Sounds quite a confessional report from the author, and is sometimes painful to hear, but it is absolutely how it feels (bereavement, not ballooning). Made me think carefully about what I would say, and what I would feel most supported by in such circumstances.

What did you like best about this story?

This is not a story but a disguised autobiography.

Have you listened to any of Julian Barnes’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This is more thoughtful and considered, with a great depth of feeling.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The reading made me think very hard about the situation, and was sobered by his courage in reading his own experience.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Paul S. Turner on 20-07-14

The tropics of grief

Would you listen to Levels of Life again? Why?

Totally and utterly heartbreaking.His exploration of his own grief of losing his wife of 30 years is detailed and totally honest

What did you like best about this story?

his honesty and total love of his wife

Which scene did you most enjoy?

It hurts as much as it's worth,so in a way one relishes the pain. if it didn't matter,it wouldn't matter

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

i was in flood of tears

Any additional comments?

the most beautiful book i have read in years

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Darwin8u on 27-09-16

Every love story is a potential grief story.

Every love story is a potential grief story. If not at first, then later. If not for one, then for the other. Sometimes for both.
- Julian Barnes, Levels of Life

'Levels of Life' is hard to categorize. It is cut into three sections, three discrete chunks. Part 1: The Sin of Height is about balloons and photography. It reads like narrative nonfiction, like John McPhee at his most poetic. It focuses on the life of Félix Tournachon aka Nadar. Part 2: On the Level is about love. It is written like historical fiction. Barnes delves into the affair between Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Royal Horse Guards and Sarah Bernhardt, an erotic, 'slavic' Parisian actress, often referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known". Bernhardt is a woman who enchanted Kings, Freud, and even Mark Twain. Part 3: The Loss of Depth is a memoir of grief. It is Julian Barnes giving words to his loss. It is one of the most poetic odes to a dead lover (Barnes' wife Pam Kavanagh) I have ever read. It is a meditation on grief, love, life, and utilizes images and ideas from the previous two sections. While Barnes utilizes different techniques while writing this short book, it becomes obvious after finishing the book that Sections 1 & 2 are meant to provide a grid, a map, coordinates to allow Barnes to map his loss, his love and his grief. His images and his metaphors are amazing.

Before I even started my review, I ordered a copy for a good friend who lost a spouse three years ago. Barnes, through his own loss, captures both the height that love gives us and the crash it inevitably always brings. It was sad, poignant and beautiful.

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13 of 17 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Rochelle on 18-04-14

Stunning essay on grief

A beautifully written tribute to the grief Julian Barnes feels over the death of his wife. The thoughts he shares are keen. He is eloquent on the loss we fear most.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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