This one, which is the first I've read by Barnes, caught me off guard.
The first part involves hot air ballooning in the mid to late 1800's. I figured this was fictional, and somewhat bland, but I found out later that it was mostly a historical account.
The second part involves a fictionalized love affair between two of the nonfictional characters. The love affair ends rather abruptly, leading to the author's assertion that "every love story is a potential grief story". Although better than the first section, I was a little confused as to where this was going. The writing, however, I could tell was superb.
The final part is a deeply personal recounting of the author's grief after the death of his wife. Again, the writing was exceptional, and the content was honest and real, but I wondered how this all fit together.
And then I started to make the small connections. And then the book started getting under my skin. In a good way. I couldn't stop reflecting on the content and its meaning. This is what a good book does.
I'll be reading more of Barnes for sure.
(Also, he reminded me a little of McEwan. British, atheist, great writer. But I've only read one of Barnes' books so far, so I don't want to get ahead of myself with comparisons.)