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.
Thoughts : As you could tell from the synopsis, the book follows three paths in the lives of the main character. It’s a book of “what if this had happened?” which is, afterall, the same question every single one of us has asked ourselves in our lives! “What if I had met him.” “What if my plane had been delayed and I had not gone on that trip.” “What if I had taken this course instead.” Etc. Right from the smallest questions to the much bigger, life changing ones.
Naturally I was desperate to read this book and read I did, flipping through pages, taking my time slowly so as to not get muddled up with the different timelines and the different names. I had read a few reiews bashing this book and talking about how confusing it was. I thought that I would be utterly bewildered at the end of it and I was sure I would hate it. But I decided to read it anyway because it was the Poppy’s Book Club book of the month a while back. Fortunately, I think I’ve found one of my most favourite books of the year!
The book is certainly something special, written in a simple but relatable manner. The main characters, Eva and Jim, have very distinct narrative voices (is it still a narrative voice if it is in third person?) and it is very easy to distinguish between them. Particularly the portions where their life hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to, they sound like a petty resentful version of themselves and it is brilliant.
Author Laura Barnett has done a very good job with this book, keeping the distinctions clear and easy to recognise. I enjoyed the depth of their characters and while this is essentially a love story, there are so many more elements to it. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. I am sure I’m going to fall in love with her next book as well!