There are things that are connected in the world. That perhaps come naturally to people – either as a phrase – like chalk and cheese or like the way it is meant to be – like a button and a shirt. They go hand in hand. There are some things that just are not meant to go hand in hand. That maybe by some twist of fate some things just happen or they make you think of them together, in Julian Barnes’s case – love, grief, photography and ballooning. They all strangely come together in his latest work, “Levels of Life”.
He uses ballooning as a metaphor for love – raising us to a higher level and then what happens when we come crashing down. At this point, the focus moves to the crux of the book, which is his grief – the gaping hole left by his wife when she passed on after thirty years of togetherness.
Julian Barnes writing is sparse and very striking. He writes with a lot of emotion (but obviously given the context) and somehow transfers the feeling in his reader/s. Somehow I have found very few writers capable of doing this.
Barnes’ writing is too intense at times, however that is because he was writing with the emotion that could not be faked, which converted superbly into words and sentences. The book scorches you from within – because grief after all is a universal emotion. We have all felt it at one point or the other, and Barnes only connects to that with almost every sentence. It does take some time to get into the book at the beginning, however once the reader does, it is all a breeze, where you wish Pat (Julian’s wife) was there with him, healthy and alive.
“Levels of Life” may be a short book, however the emotion and the construction of the memoir, which is only close to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, to me is sure going to be one of the best reads this year. I would recommend everyone to get a copy of this work.