by Ilana Berney
Seeing as the summer is fast approaching (and also because my life seems to have become nothing but revision, exams and university visits recently), I decided to write a book review on an absolutely fantastic book that I read a while ago, and one which I hope will bring others as much joy as it did to me.
‘The Versions of Us’ is a debut novel by Laura Barnett. The book contains three different plot lines that all centre around the lives of two main characters (Eva and Jim) and how their futures play out both together and separately throughout the years.
The books begins in the year 1938 when both characters are born, but then resumes twenty years later in 1958 when they cross paths for the first, but definitely not the last, time as students at Cambridge University. The book follows key moments in their lives after they meet, both when they are together as a couple and also when, in different timelines, they are apart and with other people. Each chapter is titled with the ‘version’ of the story, a chapter title, the location and the date the chapter is taking place. For example: “Version 1, Pink House, London, October 1962”. Although at first the constant switching between versions and years every chapter is confusing, you soon become used to it and I often found myself looking forward to the switch in the next chapter to see what happened in the same year but in a different ‘version’.
The book is ultimately a love story and in each different versions of their future their love for each other differs and takes different incarnations right up until the conclusion of the book in the present day. Unlike the main part of the book the book, neither the very beginning (in 1938) nor the end (in 2014) have three separate chapters for each version. Instead they are simply titled “This is how it begins” and “This is how it ends”, the chapter then proceeds with short conclusions or epilogues for each version of their lives at the end of the book, and at the start simply two different sections focusing on the beginning of the characters’ lives and an introduction into the different environments that they were brought up in.
The book is wonderfully written with plot twists in every version of their futures. The twists and turns within the book keep you hooked onto every word as well as making you think about things in your own life and ask questions such as ‘What if I had said yes?’ Laura Barnett’s writing and the story (or in this case stories) she tells make your mind marvel while also pressing you to think about all the decisions that have been made, and how a different answer could possibly have led to a completely alternate future for yourself and the people surrounding you now.
‘The Versions of Us’ was enthralling from start to finish and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wishes to be held captive by a book and its characters this summer.