"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.
So it is with love. Barnes creates a metaphor between love (found and lost) and the intrepid adventure of hot air ballooning and lays the groundwork for talking about the death of his wife. Initially, the connection feels somewhat unnatural, however Barnes’s thoughtful writing and rich illustrative comparisons carry it through. (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
British novelist Barnes (The Sense of an Ending) offers a delicately oblique, emotionally tricky geography of grief, which he has constructed from his experience since the sudden death in 2008 of his beloved wife of 30 years, literary agent Pat Kavanagh.
Starred Review. Barnes' reticence is as eloquent as it is soul-shuddering.
Barnes and Noble
As always, the Man Booker Award winner moves in unanticipated ways, circling in this instance around, of all things, ballooning and photography, to disclose his story of grieve and gifts received. Editor's recommendation.
Joyce Carol Oates, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
A precisely composed, often deeply moving hybrid of non-fiction, 'fabulation,' and straightforward reminiscence and contemplation.
The Independent (UK)
A book whose slimness belies its throbbing emotional power.
The Telegraph (UK)
A luminous meditation on love and grief.
The Sunday Times (UK)
Both a supremely crafted artefact and a desolating guidebook to the land of loss.
The Times (UK)
Spare and beautiful...a book of rare intimacy and honesty about love and grief. To read it is a privilege. To have written it is astonishing.
The Independent (UK)
This complex, precise and beautiful book hits you in the solar plexus and leaves you gasping for air ... It's an unrestrained, affecting piece of writing, raw and honest and more truthful for its dignity and artistry, every word resonant with its particular pitch. It defies objectivity. Anyone who has loved and suffered loss, or just suffered, should read this book, and re-read it, and re-read it.
The Guardian (UK)
As the slim volume progresses, something not quite central to your vision builds, so that by the end you are blindsided by a quiet devastation ... Levels of Life would seem to pull off the impossible: to recreate, on the page, what it is like to be alive in the world.
The Herald (Scotland) (UK)
At times unbearably sad, but it is also exquisite: a paean of love, and on love, and a book unexpectedly full of life ... In time [this] may come to be viewed as the hardest test and finest vindication of [Barnes's] literary powers.
The Irish Times
A remarkable narrative that is as raw in its emotion as it is characteristically elegant in its execution.
In Levels of Life, Julian Barnes creates an extended metaphor between the trials of hot air ballooning and the experience of love found and lost. In one example he writes:
Grief is vertical and vertiginous while mourning is horizontal. Grief makes your stomach turn, snatches the breath from you, cuts off the blood supply to the brain; mourning blows you in a new direction. But since you are now in enveloping cloud, it is impossible to tell if you are marooned or deceptively in motion. You are a first-time aeronaut, alone beneath the gasbag, equipped with a few kilos of ballast, and told that this item in your hand you've never seen before is the valve-line.
From Greek mythology, to Shakespeare, to Star Wars, metaphors have been used throughout history, arguably as one of language's most powerful and descriptive tools.
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