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The Versions of Us

The Versions of Us 1

by Laura Barnett
Publication Date: 09/06/2015
4/5 Rating 1 Reviews
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.

Publication Date:
Orion Publishing Group, Limited
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Laura Barnett

Laura Barnett is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and writes for a number of national newspapers and magazines.

Laura was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. Her debut novel, The Versions of Us , was a Number One bestseller, with rights sold in 24 countries and television rights optioned by Trademark Films.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • a brilliant debut

    by on

    “Jim, looking back at his lovely, handsome son….had felt so full of pride and love that for a moment he’d been unable to speak. And so he’d simply slung his arm around Dylan’s shoulders, thinking that he’d never expected things to turn out like this; but then he’d lived long enough to understand the futility of expecting anything at all”

    Cambridge, 1958: trying to avoid a small white dog on the path, a young woman swerves her bicycle and ends up with a puncture. A young man notes her plight and offers to help. After some conversation and consideration, they head for his room together to effect the repair. But what if she manages, narrowly, to avoid the dog and the puncture, and curtly dismisses the young man’s concerned "Are you alright there”? Or what if she falls off the bike, twists her ankle, the young man offers to help, and convinces her to skip class and come to the pub? For university students Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor, three almost identical encounters with three different outcomes.

    Where some authors might tentatively explore the “what if” scenario, Barnett executes her exploration with an elegant finesse that belies her status as a first-time author. There are three distinct timelines, each clearly marked, running in parallel throughout the book. In three separate stories, the reader observes Jim and Eva forming relationships (not necessarily with each other) and experiencing the highs and lows of everyday life.

    Each chapter updates the reader on their lives at a certain time (alone or together, depending on the version and the narrator), thus covering almost sixty years. In each version there are many common elements: friends, acquaintances and family members are the same, as are mostly their character and personal details; children necessarily differ as they are begotten at different times and to different couples; incidents, anecdotes, certain themes and occasionally whole conversations occur in most or all versions. All of this gives the reader insight into emotions experienced and choices made.

    Barnett’s characters are appealing: the reader easily shares their hopes, their joys and sorrows, and is occasionally dismayed by their poor behaviour. The storylines are all wholly believable: events in their lives are what happen to us all. Barnett manages to effortlessly locate her stories in place and time with the seamless inclusion of the topical: news, fashion, music, literature, popular culture.

    Barnett’s writing, her themes, her characters and her style are very reminiscent of that of David Nicholls, and perhaps Anne Tyler and Kate Atkinson (Life After Life). While it can be a bit challenging to keep the three versions (with so much in common) distinct while reading, taking notes does help, and the beautiful descriptive prose more than makes up for any inconvenience.
    "He stands for a moment before opening the studio door, looking down at the beach, flooded with a disorientating happiness; and he savours it, drinks it in, because he is old enough now to know happiness for what it is: brief and fleeting, not a state to strive for, to seek to live in, but to catch when it comes, and hold on to for as long as you can".

    “…Jim doesn’t care: he is thinking only about when he will see Eva again. For all the years he has spent without her are dulling now, losing their shape and colour – as if he were sleepwalking through them, and has only just remembered what it is to be fully awake” are just a few examples of this. This is a brilliant debut, and fans of this style will look for more from Laura Barnett. 4.5 stars.