Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Levels of LifeAfter reading this book, I feel differently about Barnes, a favorite writer of mine, valued for his humor and quirkiness. As nonfiction with elements of autobiography and fictionalized history, Levels of Life combines a scattershot account of balloon flight and the affairs of balloon aficionados, some history and philosophy of photography, and Barnes’ own grief, anger and sense of loss upon his wife’s death to cancer in 2008. While I can relate to his anguish, the violence of his expressions of disgust at friends’ awkward condolences turned me away. The writer is a hard, hard person, but one who loved deeply and well, and feels a permanent, eternal loss. Perhaps it represents a cautionary tale in the literary world of grief and grieving, as it serves as a manual for behavior to avoid!

Reviewed by Teresa

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