Reading Group Center

Julian Barnes’s Levels of Life Moves Readers with Its Message about Love and Loss

Julian Barnes’s latest literary work, Levels of Life, masterfully combines history, fiction, and essay into a rumination on life’s highs and lows. But it is the elegiac, emotional pull of the third section, “The Loss of Depth,” which addresses Barnes’s sorrow over losing his wife, that has particularly resonated with readers. On Goodreads, one reader praises it as “an account tender, tough, sensitive, and haunting, a sharing that is neither meant as a guidebook nor as therapy, simply a telling for its own sake, in the way that perhaps only Julian Barnes could tell it.” Another reader observes, “[‘The Loss of Depth’] rocked me to my core. . . .  It’s as raw and brutal as any personal essay I have read.”

Levels of Life probes the delicate yet universal subject of grief in a manner that invites readers to share their own stories. Experience Barnes’s beautiful, mournful prose in the exclusive excerpt below, and consider using it as a launching point for a book club discussion about personal experiences of loss.

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(If you have trouble viewing the excerpt below, please click here to view on Scribd.)