Levels of Life by Julian Barnes - review by Elspeth Barker

Elspeth Barker

A Grief Observed

Levels of Life


Jonathan Cape 118pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

This intricately wrought triptych offers first a selective account of the astonishing antics of the ‘balloon-going classes’ in 19th-century France, then an interlude of terrestrial love, rejection and aspiration, and finally an exploration of Julian Barnes’s passionate grief for his wife, who died five years ago.

Barnes’s three chosen balloonists are the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the bluff English colonel Fred Burnaby and the great aeronaut and photographer Nadar, who in 1858 ‘put two things together’ (photography and ballooning) by taking pictures of Parisian streets from the air. The basket of this balloon was a wicker cottage

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