I was a bit wary of this book to begin with, but I plucked up the courage to request it on NetGalley, and when the request was accepted, I felt obliged to read. I am so happy that I made that choice because damn this was a fine piece of British literature! Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:
** Please be aware of spoilers!**
About The Book
‘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.
This book was bloody brilliant! It was such a well written piece of British Literature that Barnett should be incredibly proud of what she has produced! Contemporary, romance, drama, all rolled into 320 pages where every word that was written, counted!
Set in various places around the world, but mainly in the UK, Eva and Jim explore the possibilities of life if certain things had happened differently. Starting in 1958 and ending in 2014, I feel like I have lived the full lives of these two characters, three times over! Each chapter, split into three ‘versions’ is describing a single event that is divergent, depending on how things went in the beginning. There is romance, affairs, drama, art and literature featured throughout the whole book, along with so many characters that brought it to life, I really just don’t know where to begin!
I should have thought really, at the beginning of the novel, that this is a story of life, and the only way it can end is with death. Yet the whole story was just so unpredictable, such a page turner, and I still cried buckets at the end! The events of the whole story were told in third person with shifting perspectives between the two main characters; Eva and Jim. They all linked back to one another in the end, with the small details staying the same while larger details tended to change throughout the versions. The story was very fast paced, with a logical setting of One, Two Three, repeat with a different even each time. All threads added up, and I could definitely see, as a reader, where things changed, and where some thing stayed the same.
I felt very connected to Eva and Jim throughout the whole book, and all of the good and bad and embarrassing things they did, all of their achievements and downfalls felt like my own, and never did that feeling falter. There were so many characters that it was impossible to fill them all out as much as some readers might have liked, but I felt that, as long as Eva and Jim were fully inflated, then the other characters could just be cardboard supporting the whole story, which is what I felt they were there for, in a good way. This story was about Eva and Jim, and the surrounding personnel where just there to carry them along, kind of like crowd surfing.
I never expected half of what went on in the novel, with so many affairs and children and husbands and family members, you could never clearly see what was going to happen next, and that is one of the reasons why this book was such a page turner! I thought the best moment in the book happened towards the end, when, even though Eva and Jim, in one version, had only met in short intervals with long periods between them, they still ended up being together, even after the most part of their lives had passed. I think the ending as written incredibly well, very sensitively but also touching my heart, as I have seen it has done with so many other readers. There were so many things to piece together when I finished the book, when I read the final page, it was difficult to form a coherent thought at first, mostly because I was drowning in my tears! Apart from the unexpected nature of the book, the story was constantly going, something was always going on, which was the main reason I kept on turning the pages. The short chapters helped, as I always had that voice in my head saying ‘just one more chapter…’
From the story, I learnt that life isn’t perfect. There will always be ups and down, you will make mistakes and learn from them, and you always dwell on how things might have been different if something else happened or something different was said.
I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of good English literature and is gripped by stories of life and love.
My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5
Where To Buy
If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):
Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)