I cannot, in all honesty, say I am much of a Julian Barnes’ fan. In fact, the only other book by him I’ve ever bought (‘A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters’ 2009) is still gathering dust somewhere along my bookshelves – unfinished and unloved. There was something about this, though (the title? the book blurb? the front cover?) that grabbed my attention and made me decide to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed…
In its mere 128 pages Barnes explores love and loss by combining three seemingly unrelated genres – historical non-fiction, historical romance and personal memoir. The book is broken down in three parts (Sin of Height- On the Level- Loss of Depth) with the first two feeling a bit disjointed and irrelevant, but ultimately serving as metaphors for life’s diverse highs and lows thus ‘setting the stage’ for Part III: a sad and raw account of grief, over the death of a loved one. In spare but masterful prose, Barnes offers up a testament to the love of his life – effectively warming and breaking readers’ hearts all at the same time.
I feel like ‘Levels of Life’ is one of those books you can never fully do justice to in an ‘amateur’ review. So I’ll stop here and simply recommend you pick up a copy and form a personal opinion. As far as I’m concerned this is one powerful, unforgettable read that’s sure to stay with me for quite some time (and will undoubtedly be picked up again – in future).
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Vintage (3 April 2014)
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