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.
Three stories, separate, yet cleverly intertwined at significant times for Eva and Jim. One ordinary occurrence causes a serendipitous meeting, or almost meeting and what happens as a result of this.
Easy to read, the three stories allow Eva and Jim’s characters to develop in differing scenarios. Each story shares the same support cast of players but they take on different significance. Although Eva and Jim’s lives are different in each story they touch at some point.
The story starts when Eva and Jim are nineteen and dips into each succeeding decade until 2014. The research into distinctive events and trends of each time period is evident and enriches the story. Similarly the references to the art, literature and media of each decade are pertinent and give the stories a realistic, diary like quality.
It’s easy to understand what motivates Eva’s decisions, throughout the book, she is a perfect women’s fiction heroine and whichever version of her you’re reading you feel her happiness and sadness and want her to succeed. Jim is not such a strong character but though I didn’t always understand his choices, I did empathise with him.
The general tone of all stories is dark, there is a tendency to focus on the sadness and the tragedy and a little more attention to happy events would have made for a lighter read. The versions of the story share a poignant ending, which imprints the characters and their possible lives on the reader, after the last page is turned.
I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing Group W&N via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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