Book review: The Versions of Us (Laura Barnett)
A love story with a difference.
Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor have a chance meeting while studying at Cambridge. Eva’s bicycle has a puncture and Jim offers to help. She later thinks ‘if it hadn’t been for that rusty nail, Jim and I would never have met.’
This novel is different because that is only one version of what happened. There are two other versions. Barnett’s method of introducing these versions to us is to change from one version of events to the next in subsequent chapters. In versions two and three, Eva and Jim meet, but the circumstances and their reactions are different with each option, so the outcomes vary. This could be viewed as three parallel universes, although the author does not use the mechanisms of science fiction to tell these stories. She simply writes three versions of each chapter; although it is fascinating how some issues coincide as the novel progresses, and there is one constant – the connection between Eva and Jim. The expression ‘soul mates’ could have been invented for them.
A well-written novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (Goodreads 4 stars), but some readers may find it hard work. I found myself occasionally back-tracking to check which version I was reading, getting my head round what had happened to Eva and what Jim was doing. Although it may not appeal to everyone, I think it is an excellent novel.