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Book Review – ‘The Versions of Us’ – Laura Barnett

Playing Parent The Versions of Us

I so enjoyed reading ‘The Sudden Departure of the Frasers’ by Louise Candlish that when I was in Cheltenham recently I dropped into Waterstones to find another good read. Talking to the guy on the shop floor he recommended ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett which he thought I would enjoy.

The Versions of Us has just been published so is still only available in hardback making it quite expensive at £12.99 but the story sounded so good I decided to treat myself. Also the cover of the book is beautifully designed and I rather liked the idea of this beautiful book sitting on my shelves!

Playing Parent The Versions of Us

Waterstones described it as ‘One Day’ meets ‘Sliding Doors’ which I thought sounded intriguing as I really enjoyed reading One Day (but have yet to see the film) and Sliding Doors was a film I loved back in the days before Gwyneth Paltrow started annoying me with her holier than thou approach to life on her site Goop.

I have to say that describing this book as One Day meets Sliding Doors does not do this book justice. It is infinitely better than either of these and I couldn’t put it down. It is really hard to describe the book without giving too much away so I have taken the description from Laura’s own website.

Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge in 1958 when their paths first cross. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations, twisting and turning to the conclusion in the present day.

Moving from 1950s Cambridge to present-day London, via New York, Cornwall, Paris, Rome and Los Angeles; from youth to old age, via thirtieth birthdays, children’s weddings, and all the fallout of failure and success, The Versions of Us is the – multiple – love story of one vivid, unconventional couple, and an examination of the different paths our own lives and loves might have taken.

I would recommend starting this book when you have some quiet time on your hands as you do need to concentrate to begin with. The story jumps between the three different versions at quite a pace to begin with. I had to keep thinking about what the story line was in each different version until about a third of the way through the book when something just clicked and I was totally immersed in each separate version of events.

What I particularly loved about the three different versions was that each story had it’s ups and downs. None of the versions were a perfect idyll which is so true of real life. What was very clever was that in each version of Jim and Eva’s story certain things remained the same, maybe an outfit or a particular party but the circumstances were altered enough to create a totally different chain of events. There are different secondary characters in each story which can get a bit confusing but you soon pick it up as the book is so well written.

I can not recommend this book enough. I was absolutely absorbed in the story and felt like I knew Jim and Eva so well by the end of it, that when I had finished the book it took me a while to stop thinking about them. Laura Barnett has been confirmed as a speaker at The Cheltenham Literature Festival in October so I can’t wait to hear her talk about the book and how she tackled the three different versions of the book. One of the things I love about Twitter is that you can reach out to people and I tweeted Laura @laura_jbarnett  to say how much I had enjoyed The Versions of Us. I was really chuffed when she tweeted me back thanking for me for reading it. During our twitter exchange she told  how she found version 2 of Jim and Eva’s story the hardest to write, which is funny as this was perhaps my favourite version out of the three and Laura said it seems to be the version that people like the most.

I have been recommending this book to lots of people as a great read. It is definitely worth purchasing in hardback if you love a great story and a beautiful book. Laura is currently working on her second novel Greatest Hits which I will be waiting for with much anticipation.