Julian Barnes’ latest literary offering is divided into three parts, combining historical account, fictionalized event and personal memoir. Barnes highlights the unpredictability of life in his written contemplation on relationships, from the factors and events bringing two people together and the joy experienced, through to the immense sorrow felt when circumstances unexpectedly change. Connecting stories of 19th century balloon travel and photography with love and grief, Levels of Life is beautifully written and deeply moving in its heartfelt honesty. Highly recommended.
The Fields, by Kevin Maher, tells the story of 13 year old Jim Finnegan, the youngest child and only boy in a large, Irish Catholic family household. Set in Dublin in the mid 1980s, the book sees the adolescence of the lead character coming to an abrupt end following the arrival of the new Parish priest, Father O'Culigeen. Whilst dealing with ongoing abuse and a terminal illness in the family, Finnegan is able to find happiness amidst the turmoil with the older, Saidhbh Donohue. The two begin an intense relationship, which despite the joys of first love, is not without its troubles.
Maher manages to mix humour in with the heavy themes of the book. The comical accounts of chaotic family life offer moments of most welcome respite from the confronting subject matter. An impressive fictional debut, The Fields is a well written and engaging read.
‘Woolgathering’ features a collection of short autobiographical pieces by the intriguing and multifaceted artist - musician, poet, photographer and author - Patti Smith. It was originally published by Hanuman books as a part of a series of small format publications, released in the 80s and 90s, showcasing the written work of many well known and influential artists, writers and poets. The new hardcover reissue by New Directions has the inclusion of additional written pieces, as well as photographic imagery by Smith, which is found interspersed throughout the text.
Recalled memories, gleaned from her childhood and years spent in New York, are presented as beautifully written pieces of dreamy, poetic prose. Smith’s evocative descriptions provide a strong sense of place, people, object and experienced emotion. As a fan of both her music and photographic work I enjoyed it immensely.