The Versions of Us
by Laura Barnett
What if you had said yes? The moments that change everything… One Day meets Sliding Doors in this outstanding debut that is causing a buzz across the publishing world
Some moments can change your life for ever. Have you ever wondered, what if…?
A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life.
Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.
The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life.
I had high hopes for this book, exploring the varying lives of Eva and Jim based on the outcomes of a single event. I had read good reviews and been recommended to give it a try.
Having now finished it, I’ve been left disappointed.
I liked the premise of the book, as students in 1953 Eva and Jim cross paths at Cambridge university and what follows is detailed in three different versions of what could be. In the first, Eva and Jim get together, the second Eva stays with her current boyfriend, David, and the third the relationship between the two is short lived. I like the characters, Eva and Jim, they were likeable at times, but what I really didn’t like was the flicking between story lines.
Each chapter is a new version spread over 60 years, initially in sequence but later in the book a version is often skipped and the sequence is out of place. The issue I had was that for the majority of the time I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t remember the plot of a story from four chapters ago, there were so many different characters; wives, children, friends, family. I had no clue who Howard or Thea or Dylan or Sophie or Leo were at points. I didn’t know which version of Jim was doing what or which version of Eva was doing something else. Perhaps I should have taken notes but I just couldn’t keep up.
Sadly this caused me to lose any love for this book and I feel like the style may have alienated others too. I become bored, in many cases the same events happen in all three versions which of course means you have to read about it three times. None of the characters are given time for real development and it was difficult to feel anything for them during the countless affairs and divorces.
I think I would have preferred one version of this story with better developed characters and plot lines. Give me some description and detail and any one of these versions alone would satisfy me.
Overall rating: A clever concept but a difficult read with underwritten story lines and characters. I’d give “The Versions of Us” a miss and will rate it 2 stars.