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Levels of Life
by Julian Barnes

RRP €11.35

Levels of Life
by Author Name Julian Barnes

Book details for title
List Price:11.35
Format: Paperback, 198 x 129 x 9mm, 128pp
Publication date: 03 Apr 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN-13: 9780099584537

Dubray Review

It is difficult to define exactly what this book is but perhaps it is best described as a combination of history, philosophy and memoir.  The first section takes the reader on a journey through hot air ballooning in the 19th century while the second section drifts into a discussion of photography.  However, the real crux of the book comes in the final section with an intimate and honest account of Julian Barnes’ journey through grief after the loss of his wife, Pat Kavanagh.  Barnes discusses the surprising and beautiful results that occur when people or objects are paired together and how life is changed by such small unions.  Full of insight and interesting thoughts, this unusual book packs a real punch despite its small size. Barnes’ depths of emotion left my own mind open to the real gifts that life can bring.

- Karen McKay, Stillorgan


You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. In Levels of Life Julian Barnes gives us Nadar, the pioneer balloonist and aerial photographer; he gives us Colonel Fred Burnaby, reluctant adorer of the extravagant Sarah Bernhardt; then, finally, he gives us the story of his own grief, unflinchingly observed. This is a book of intense honesty and insight; it is at once a celebration of love and a profound examination of sorrow.


"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 "Levels of Life is, deep-down, a heartfelt attempt to chronicle the strange journey that follows the death of a loved one." -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday "A Taj Mahal made of paper not white marble." -- Peter Conrad Observer "A magnificent blast of unflinching prose." Daily Telegraph "Powerful and well-articulated." -- Roger Lewis Daily Mail "It is true that the private language of love doesn't generally translate; yet how vividly Barnes invokes the power and delicacy of what is lost to him." -- Jane Shilling Sunday Telegraph "Profoundly emotive." Sunday Times "He writes with aphoristic simplicity and a calm profundity, without ever sounding self-pitying, maudlin or trite... Levels of Life is at times unbearably sad, but it is also exquisite: a paean of love, and on love, and a book unexpectedly full of life." -- Rosemary Goring Herald "A grief-stricken, achingly precise and bravely unconsoling exploration into the inadequacy of words." Metro "An impassioned, raw insight into a survivor's grief." Sport "A confession of grief so emotively described that it leaves the reader cold with awe." -- Billy O'Callaghan Irish Examiner