Levels of Life

  • by Julian Barnes
  • Narrated by Julian Barnes
  • 3 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Darwin8u

Not what I expected.

If you could sum up Levels of Life in three words, what would they be?

Too much ballooning!


What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The latter part of this book finally got to the part about love and loss and that was what I purchased it for. I could have done without ballooning and Sarah Bernhart, thank you.


Which character – as performed by Julian Barnes – was your favorite?

Julian himself and his exquisite narration.


Any additional comments?

Mr. Barnes is a brilliant writer and I have read three of his books and will continue to do so in the future. This book was a bit frustrating in the beginning because it just didn't get to the point until the latter half of the book.

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- Ruthanne Davis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-04-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios