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The Versions of Us

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In one moment, two lives will be changed forever ... and forever ... and forever.The one thing that's certain is that they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next ... They fell wildly in love or went their separate ways. They kissed or they thought better of it. They married soon after or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together or found solace together only after hard years spent apart. With The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett has created a world as magical and affecting as those that captivated readers in One Day and Life after Life. It is a tale of possibilities and consequences that rings across the shifting decades, from the fifties, sixties, seventies, and on to the present, showing how even the smallest choices can define the course of our lives.

403 pages, Paperback

First published June 4, 2015

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About the author

Laura Barnett

5 books286 followers
Laura Barnett is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and is now a freelance arts journalist and features writer, working for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out, as well as several other national newspapers and magazines.

Laura was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London. Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players - a compendium of advice for actors - is published by Nick Hern Books. Laura has previously published short stories, for which she has won several awards. The Versions of Us is her first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,590 reviews
Profile Image for Karen ⊰✿.
1,347 reviews
June 16, 2018
I like the concept of the book, and the characters and story lines were well written. The issue is that the book is just hard work. There are three separate story lines following two characters and every chapter flips between those three ; and between time periods. It just becomes a bit of a mind bender to keep on top of what is going on and who each character is, and therefore forces you to have to write notes or remain thoroughly confused.
I think the author would have been better off keeping the timeline much much shorter (rather than over c.60 years) and the three versions in more solid, lengthier components. So part 1 as version 1, part 2 as version 2, part 3 as version 3 and then part 4 tying them together.
Unfortunately in her quest to write a clever book I feel it will result in alienating many readers and prevent people from finishing what could otherwise be a very enjoyable book.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
February 17, 2016
This terrific novel starts out the way many romantic stories go: Boy meets girl.
Yet....author Laura Barnett doesn't just tell us an ordinary romantic story. Instead, we get three stories. They are each distinct yet closely connected together....enjoyable and easy to follow.
Eve and Jim are shown in different scenarios. Many sides to them both. We see missed opportunities, and consequences for choices made.
( their personal and professional lives equally affected).

What unfolds through these stories is fascinating stunning mystery. Everything is laid out for us in each story, but what happens is that we begin to 'vote' on our favorite path ( you can't help it)... but then you change your mind ... because some new information pops up. Many other characters play a role associated with both Jim and Eve, but this story essentially belongs to them. Although...pay 'close' attention to a few of the minor roles, too.

What makes this book special ...is the uniqueness ...(creative crafting). At times the subjects are dark in theme .. other times neutral.... with a touching ending.

It's funny I couldn't help but compare this book to a movie I just saw called "45 Years".
There is a slight difference with the theme in that it's clear to me that we all have made choices in life where we have 'wondered' "what if"...I made the 'other' choice instead ...
but in the film I saw... It looked like 1 person was a 'victim' ... possibly for 45 years by the choice she made ( not having all the information upfront to have made a clear choice).
So... I'm left wondering with 'both' the film I saw ... and 'this' book...is it really possible to say there are morals to our stories...at all?
Or... is it that....."things are just the way they are in life, and just the way they are 'not'"?
Any emotion and thought we add ... Is simply our interpretation!

This novel 'stands out'... with wonderful characters to follow.
The relationships and situations which kept changing were like doing a puzzle...
so this book is for those who might be willing to tap into that part of your brain which
isn't needed as often in other novels. Terrific mental brain exercise....

Thank You Houghton Mifflin Publishing, and Laura Barnett

Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
May 17, 2016
Different versions of a relationship and various possibilities in the lives of two people make for a thought provoking read. How do the choices we make change our entire future and what about fate? This is a well written and cleverly crafted debut that tells the story or rather stories of Eva, a writer and Jim, a painter over the course of decades . It's not just one narrative but three and while it held my interest because I liked these characters, at times I wanted it to move a little faster than it did. It felt a little dragged out and was just a little tedious trying to keep the versions straight. I could have taken notes but that's not my ideal way of reading a novel I just wanted to enjoy. Eventually I got into the rhythm of the alternating narratives of Versions One, Two and Three.

Actually my interest was piqued by the vignettes in the beginning of Miriam and Jacob and Vivian and Lewis. But the versions presented here are about Jim and Eva . Nevertheless, I loved finding out who the first two couples were and could see their versions as well in the three stories.

It's hard to talk about the novel without giving anything away so I won't give the details. I will say that it is about more than who they were together or apart but also about who they were as individuals with their artistic talents of writing and painting taking different directions in the different versions. It has been compared to One Day which didn't work for me and Life After Life which I liked but did not love . I could say the same about this one I liked it . I'll give it 3.5 stars because it's cleverly written but can't quite give it 4 stars. I will , though , look to see if the author writes more in the future as I think this is a promising debut.

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , NetGalley and Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jacki (Julia Flyte).
1,230 reviews168 followers
July 4, 2015
In 1958, Eva and Jim are nineteen year old students at Cambridge. Their paths will cross one day in October, and from there this book explores three different directions that their lives might take from that day. In Version 1, Jim invites Eva for a drink. They fall in love, she dumps her boyfriend David and they end up marrying. In Version 2, they don't get together and Eva will end up marrying David. In Version 3, they get together but then Eva will go back to David. From there, the book unfolds in chronological order, with chapters alternating between the different versions right through to 2014. In every version Jim will become an artist and Eva a writer, albeit with varying degrees of success. Also, in every version their paths will repeatedly cross, with some events occurring in every one of the three strands.

This is a clever idea for a novel. Not completely original - the movie Sliding Doors and the book Life after Life explored similar territory - but still one that holds instant appeal. In one version of his life, Jim does a painting called "The Versions of Us" which he describes as being about the many roads not taken, the many lives not lived.

So a clever concept but not one that is necessarily easy to read. I struggled to keep track of which life I was in at which time - was Eva happily married or unhappily? Which man was she with? Which children did she have in this life? Around the 150 page mark I gave up on reading the book in order, and instead read each Version right through - first Version 1, then Version 2, then Version 3. Which made it a lot easier to keep track of what was happening in each strand but which also highlighted to me one of the central problems with this book, which is that none of the three versions are terribly engrossing. Unlike Life About Life for example, when Ursula's alternate lives showed different facets of life for women in the 20th century, this book just shows varying ways that two people can dance around one another's lives.

The other issue is that I never really cared about these people. In every version, Jim is a hard character to like - the only striking thing about him are his long-lashed violet eyes. Depending on the version we read, he mopes, he sulks, he's unfaithful, but he's never terribly interesting and I could never see why bright, brave, determined Eva would be drawn to him. If you think about the fact that each version only has around 130 pages to cover over 50 years, it is no wonder perhaps that characters are only sketched thinly.

I realise I'm in the minority with my dislike of this book, but it left me feeling very dissatisfied.

Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,002 reviews351 followers
March 27, 2020
Voa Pensamento Voa...

"O bater de asas duma borboleta na China pode desencadear um tufão em Nova Iorque"

Tudo se interliga neste Cosmos Misterioso e Fabuloso em que as nossas Vidas se encontram e desencontram.

Onde o Tudo se desdobra em ínfimos Nadas.

E mudanças microscópicas crescem encarnando grandes (grandiosos?!) Desvios.

Pois sempre que a Música muda, a Dança acompanha.

Uma leitura que nos eleva o pensamento, e...só por isso vale!😍👍
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
670 reviews1,027 followers
March 16, 2018
"Footfalls echo in the memory. Down the passage which we did not take." T.S Eliot

3.5 stars!
Such an interesting premise - that the span of our lives could be entirely different from only 1 single event.
Eva and Jim meet for the first time at Cambridge when Eva falls from her bike. The choices both Jim and Eva make following this determine the rest of their lives.
At times slightly confusing - as following three separate versions of their life with the same characters was difficult, but it was fascinating.
The three versions head in such different directions despite having the same beginning you are left wondering at your own life, and how it can change and you can go down a new path from just the smallest decisions.
An enjoyable read, with a lot of thought. Who knows how we would be in another life? Under another set of circumstances - how would your life change?

"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 to hold on to for as long as you can."
Profile Image for Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine).
189 reviews219 followers
May 14, 2016
I had to give up after reading 41% of this book. I actually read far beyond my initial impulse to stop. Though I liked the idea of having three versions, I found the way it was written to be difficult to follow. I was also not invested in any of the characters. Though I really wanted to like this book, it just wasn't happening for me.
Profile Image for Marissa.
1 review12 followers
February 5, 2015
This book is so good, I am writing my first Goodreads review EVER for it. (Full disclosure: I work for the publisher so I got to read this for work. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.)

It's easy to say a book is full of beautifully-written characters, and while that's true of The Versions of Us, the real beauty and skill is in how there are multiple beautifully-written versions of every character. As you read, you feel as though you're a silent onlooker on the road, in the pub, at the party; wanting the best for Eva and Jim, but left wondering if - actually - there is one, "best" way for the story to go. The answer - if this is real life, of course - is that there isn't, and there are threads of the perfect and imperfect in every life. What makes this novel such a fantastic read and why I'm so happy to have read it this year is that it asks you to challenge the simplistic idea of two-roads-diverged, and consider instead: countless possible strands and that really our lives bend from moment to moment.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,508 reviews2,508 followers
December 31, 2015
Eva: “You don’t really believe that anything is meant to happen, do you?”
Jim: “No. Maybe not. Who knows?”
“No regrets, Jim, all right?”
“No regrets, Eva. Not now. Not ever.”

(Nearly 4.5) In this impressively structured, elegantly written debut, Barnett chronicles the romantic lives of two Cambridge graduates through three-quarters of a century. By giving three options for how their connection might play out, she investigates “the dim, liminal place where one path is taken, and another missed.” She juggles her storylines and moves through decades with ease.

The high-culture vibe is reminiscent of television’s Mad Men in places, and also recalls the sophistication of Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine. Less mawkish than One Day; less gimmicky than Life After Life – though there are shades of both. The message seems to be: there is no one perfect person, no one perfect story. Unsentimental this may be, but it feels true to how life works.

(Full review in July 2015 issue of Third Way magazine.)
Profile Image for Milly Paris.
422 reviews26 followers
December 19, 2015
Affairs, affairs everywhere. That's my overriding thought of this book. And God, did it make me angry.

Ok, down to the main review. The concept of this book is awesome. There are many moments recently where I've been struck by how even the smallest actions could have completely changed the course of my life, which is the main theme of this book and pretty much the reason I read it. Also, I'm a sucker for a romance. However, this was not a romance. Actually it was pretty much the opposite. To me, it just said that love was dead and unrealistic and never lasted. In every version, there were multiple affairs. That's just so blooming depressing. And the characters rarely, if ever, got their comeuppance for that. Jim was an unbareable character. Wholly selfish and self-centred and just awful. I felt no sympathy towards him and questioned why the author would let him end up with Eva in any version at all. In fact, many of the characters were despicable. If I don't like the characters, I don't care about the story.

Also, I found the different storylines very difficult to follow, especially with the changing decades and children and spouses. Often I got confused between them, which really affected how much I enjoyed the book.

Meh, overall it was average (with some enjoyable parts) but these were overshadowed by how angry all the affairs made me. I'm planning on getting my mum to read it and see if possibly it's just my age and stage in life that hampered my enjoyment of it.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,379 reviews518 followers
August 10, 2020
(3.5) I picked this novel up expecting a light read, but it was more than that. All three versions of Eva and Jim’s life were engrossing and surprising.
Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,147 reviews153 followers
December 12, 2016
DNF at Page 208.

I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to like this book. Having it on my main TBR list for over 18 months, seeing a copy available from my local library got me extremely excited. But when I started to read through the pages, things started to become a struggle.

The plot follows two characters Eva and Jim who meet by chance in the grounds of Cambridge University. Both are first year students and still trying to find their way around. During this chance meeting, there are three different versions played out and us as the readers follow them. Eva and Jim graduate and lead busy lives but different plot twists are apparent across the different versions.

I think the idea for a plot like this was great but I started to loose interest around 150 pages in, reason being that it started to become too confusing with the three different plot versions being switched around each chapter. For example, one chapter was version 1 of the events that took place after Eva and Jim's meeting, the next chapter was version 3. With all of the different locations and new characters appearing, I was left puzzled by what was to come.

After reading 1/2 of the book, I decided it simply wasn't my cup of tea and chose to DNF it. I can see where this story was trying to go but overall, I was disappointed.

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Twitter: marriedtobooks3
Profile Image for Serena.
Author 3 books1 follower
May 7, 2015
The Versions of Us is the story of Eva and Jim told in triplicate. It centres on a moment, when they were in university, when Eva falls from her bike. In versions one and three Jim helps her up. In version two, he doesn't. From that point their lives branch off in three different directions and we are taken through all of the trials and tribulations of three versions of Jim and Eva.

Firstly, let me say that I loved the concept of this book. I loved the film "Sliding Doors" and I have a slight obsession with the theory of time travel (this book isn't about that, but the principle is there: if one thing is changed in the past, it can completely alter the course of the future), so I was very excited to read this book.

For the most part, it didn't disappoint.

I loved the fact that in all three versions - although worldly different - there are certain key events that remain constant, lending to the theory that some things are destined - inevitable - regardless of the choices we make.

I also loved the fact that the two main characters lives are inextricably linked, even when, in one version, they are mere acquaintances.

I didn't love having to keep up with all three versions, which at times was difficult. It was too easy to lose track of which version you were in, and which characters belonged to it. Also, because some events happened in all three versions, it did at times feel a little repetitive.

I also didn’t love the fact that there was no climax, no crescendo in any of the versions; Jim and Eva’s lives seemed to merely plod along without pomp and circumstance, which, while certainly grounded in reality, makes for a flat read. It took me nearly three weeks to finish this book, which is unusual for me, and that was purely because there was nothing about it that made me rush to pick it up again once I’d put it down for the day. I kept finding other things to do aside from read, which is not a good sign in my eyes.

I had to think for a while after finishing The Versions of Us, to determine how I really felt about it. It was so beautifully written - the author has an enchanting way with words, the concept is unique and alluring, the characters felt very real. On the surface it’s a laudable creation. But when I finished (which I did so hurriedly, so that it was over) I didn’t... feel… the way that I had hoped I would. There was no catharsis, no epiphany, and no deep satisfaction.

It just… ended.

Please note, I received a copy of this book free through First Reads.
Profile Image for Tsvetelina.
Author 4 books602 followers
September 27, 2018
Някак много неподходящо и едновременно съвсем подходящо (за мазохист, какъвто се явявам аз) е да започнете да четете тази книга преди собствената си сватба и да я приключите непосредствено след нея. Много истинска, чисто и просто парливо откровена книга за пътищата на живота, превратностите на предначертаното и личния избор, сложността и объркаността на взаимоотношенията и отпечатъкът им върху остатъка от живота ни. Със сигурност бих чела още от Лора Барнет.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,267 reviews115 followers
March 6, 2016
“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.
Profile Image for Tiago | MrsMargotBlog.
154 reviews25 followers
June 18, 2016
It is a lightweight and easy to follow reading, my fear is to end up losing myself in different versions, but it did not ..
    This book shows us how our decisions may affect the course of our lives and how our choices can change everything, but when it is destined to happen will happen even if the next decade or there 50 years.
    In all versions, we see how our life is made of the priorities, in the first version we see a priority for the work which ultimately affect in any way the relationship of Eva and Jim; in the second we see the family being the priority, so that even if both intersecting never take a chance; and the third to give priority to the passion, the love they feel for each other, family life (especially children) is very affected.
    I enjoyed reading this, I liked the three versions, although like most of the third and the final with three versions left me moved. Recommended for sure.
Profile Image for Amber’s reading.
538 reviews97 followers
July 15, 2019
I knew I had to read (listen to) this book when I saw it was compared to the movie Sliding Doors. I loved that movie so much in college that I cut my hair into a pixie cut like Gwyneth Paltrow. Fortunately, this book worked out much better than my terrible pixie cut.

Beautifully written and complex, The Versions of Us gives us three different stories that center around one chance meeting, or not, between Jim and Eva while they are in college. It dives into the harsh realities of ambition, loyalty, betrayal, but also love.

There is an authenticity to this book that many romance readers may not like. There are no tropes, no stereotypical characters, so clear cut HEA’s. I wouldn’t even categorize this book as a romance. There’s definitely love in this book, but it’s too multidimensional to be called a romance.

There were many times when I found myself not liking the book, not because of the writing, but because of the realness of storylines and the romance reader in me wanted some unicorns and sunshine.

I listened to the audio version of this book and thought the narrators did an excellent job.
Profile Image for Dessislava.
206 reviews117 followers
August 6, 2018
„Варианти на нас“ на Лора Барнет е книга, която е по-дълбока, отколкото (може би) читателят първоначално би предположил. Ведрата корица обещава заплетена история на двама души, но истината е, че по време на чет��нето по-често ми ставаше тъжно и замислено, отколкото безгрижно и весело.

Ева и Джим се срещат в един приятен ден, когато са по на 19 години. Ева кара колелото си към консултация със свой преподавател, когато в опита си да избегне тичащо срещу нея кученце, губи контрол и пада. На помощ се притичва Джим.
Всеки един от тях е млад, красив, сравнително наясно със себе си и намиращ се на хубаво място в живота. Романът представлява три различни версии на това по какъв начин се развива тази среща и какво следва от това. В книгата се редуват Вариант 1, 2, 3 (да, нещо като при Пол Остър и „4321“, но романът на Бърнет е писан по-рано).
Романът проследява трите живота на Ева и Джим от срещата през 1958 година им до 2014. Това са години на срещи, раздели, семейства, деца, изневери, слава, провали, болести... Половин век живот, който е наситен с какво ли не.

Конструкция на романа:
Интересното на конструкцията е, че читателят следи паралелно развитието на трите версии на Ева, Джим, близките им и това, което се случва с тях. Виждаме как Бърнет залага едни и същи характеристики на персонажите си, но те се развиват по различен начин, защото са изложени на различни влияния. Героите носят в себе си неща, които в единия вариант проявяват, в другия не, а в третия - донякъде.
Така изградена „Варианти на нас“ е като 3D изображение на историята. Виждаш не само всички нейни ъгли, а и какво има зад тях, какво е можело да бъде, АКО... Това е нещо, което всеки си е мислил някога. Какво би станало, ако тогава бях взел друго решение. Какво щеше да стане, ако тогава бях казал нещо различно.

Ева и Джим, естествено, са водещите. Във всеки вариант тя има афинитет към писането и литературата, а той - към изобразителното и приложното изкуство. Във всеки вариант той ми се струва по-малодушен от нея и на моменти ми беше искрено трудно да му съчувствам. С Ева не беше така. Дали намерих в нея черти, които смятам, че притежавам и аз, дали просто ми стана симпатична не знам, но се привързах към нея.
Беше ми любопитно да следя Джим, но през цялото време следенето ми беше изпитателно, сякаш знаех, че той ще (продължи) да се дъни.
Освен тях в книгата има много второстепенни герои, които са изградени по същия начин - солиден първоначален пакет от качества, който се проявява и развива спрямо варианта, в който са поставени.
Лора Барнет определено не се грижи само за главните герои, а с внимание и бдителност развива и останалите. Така се получава приятен баланс и усещане за истинност във всяка една от частите на книгата.

Лично и субективно:
„Варианти на нас“ ме завъртя в мисли за Ева и Джим и в мисли за мен самата. Колко странно би било да прочета за моите варианти и за това какво би станало, ако преди 10 години съм взела едно мъничко решение различно от онова, което съм взела тогава. Човек винаги си казва, че всичко, което някога е сторил, го е довело до мястото, което е сега. Но пък има и хора, които смятат, че независимо какво правиш, има неща, които ти е отредено да се случат. Аз не вярвам в това. Смятам, че човек сам си бута каруцата. И тази книга ме вкара още повече в тези мисли.
Та... това е книга, която ще ви накара да си спомняте, да се чудите и да ровите из кътчета на душата си, където може би скоро не сте ровили. При мен стана така.

Завършвам с цитат:
„Тогава тя изпита прилив на ярост, така могъщ, че ѝ се прииска да се разкрещи. „Ти влезе в живота ми, като бях на деветнайсет. Ти беше единственият мъж, когото някога съм обичала, единственият мъж, когото се надявах да обичам изобщо. Ти ми отне всичко, което постигнахме заедно, всичко, което представлявахме един за друг, и го изгори, превърна го в купчина пепел.“ Но не изрече нищо от това. Просто стисна ръката на Джим и после я пусна.“
Profile Image for Anmiryam.
766 reviews130 followers
February 29, 2016
A well written and cleverly constructed commercial novel that envisions three versions of the lives of the protagonists -- Eva and Jim. Unsentimental -- almost subversive in its assault on the architecture of romantic fiction.

Laura Barnett’s smart and engrossing debut, The Versions of Us is cleverly constructed and almost subversive in its assault on the architecture of romantic fiction. In the complex, yet easily followed dance of the three story lines, we get to know this Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor, who first meet — or don’t meet — in 1958, more fully than in a straightforward narrative. As we see their lives align and diverge, the novel becomes a sophisticated meditation on the complexity inherent in finding and maintaining love, becoming parents and producing creative work.

With it’s multi-layered chorus of alternative lives, The Versions of Us will evoke immediate comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, though the two books confront different questions despite employing similar literary techniques. While Atkinson’s novel focuses on the interplay between history and Ursula Todd’s ability to define, and live a meaningful life, Barnett seeks to explore how we, as embodied by Eva and Jim, make the best of the twists and turns of our ephemeral existence — to show that happiness is best grabbed when it appears, however fleeting a moment that may be.

At once a love story and a subtle critique of the narrative arc of conventional romances, this is going to be a book that many will pick up and fall into, only to find a day has disappeared while they were turning the pages all the way to the end.
Profile Image for Petra.
814 reviews76 followers
January 11, 2019
The Versions of Us follows Eva and Jim from the age of nineteen from a chance meeting in Cambridge in 1958 until they are in their seventies in 2014. There are three different versions showing how the decisions they make as individuals change the paths of their lives. It also includes their extended families and how various decisions affect them.
I listened to this. It was extremely hard work. I wonder if it would have been easier to follow if I had read it. I found it very difficult to keep up with the characters, the ever increasing families and the different versions of events. Very confusing.
I think Laura Barnett deserves praise for plotting this - it can't have been easy. I liked that neither version was a perfect version, which kept this realistic. In each version, the characters have ups and downs, regrets, failures and successes. Unfortunately, I found neither Eva nor Jim particularly likeable or interesting. This was a slog to get through for me, but I can see how other readers - with better cognitive abilities ;) - would enjoy this much more.
2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Julian Lyubomirov.
197 reviews37 followers
August 27, 2019
Сигурно на всеки се е случвал някъде насред живота секунден сблъсък с потенциална любов, който е оставил няколко безсънни нощи след себе си в мисли за различни сценарии. Аз преживях подобно нещо преди пет години, но си подминах късмета и още ме мъчат възможните варианти. Заради това си казах миналото лято, че задължително ще прочета този роман. Да си призная честно, направо ме е яд, че идеята не е моя, тъй като е блестяща и осрана.
Големите очаквания за книги, в които героите се казват Джеймс, Дейвид, Даниъл, Джим, Дженифър и т.н., ги имах на дванайсет години. Не ми допадна самото повествование и не успях да достигна до героите, колкото и да се опитвах - сториха ми се твърде изкуствени, бездушевни като кукли и в същото време пренаситени с емоции, колкото и парадоксално да звучи. Не на последно място е и глупавото еднообразие, защото все пак това са 470 страници, в които се повтарят едни и същи събития с три различни резултата.
По-скоро се радвам, че свърши.
Навярно би ми харесала повече, ако бях пенсионер в наши дни.
Profile Image for Tempo de Ler.
728 reviews101 followers
July 1, 2016
Termino este livro bastante dividida entre o seu conceito geral - que gostei muito - e o esforço envolvido na leitura do mesmo.

São três vidas; três versões diferentes. Depois de se conhecerem, as escolhas de Jim e Eva podem conduzi-los por caminhos distintos e são esses três trilhos que vamos acompanhando ao longo do livro. Juntos, separados ou meros conhecidos, os resultados são diferentes para cada versão de Jim e Eva, levando a famílias diferentes e a progressões e sucessos de carreira bem diferentes, embora na mesma área.

Três Vezes Nós é um exercício de 'e se...', de possibilidades e alternativas. Pequenas e grandes decisões acabam por moldar as nossas vidas em vários sentidos e facilmente nos podemos deixar apanhar neste jogo de imaginar o que poderia ter sido, que tipo de vida poderia ser vivida e com que pessoas esta poderia ser partilhada. Laura Barnett mostra-nos que, seja qual for o caminho que decidamos percorrer, não há vidas perfeitas; o melhor que podemos fazer é tentar tirar o máximo partido do que conquistamos, o acumular de resultados das nossas escolhas ao longo da vida.

Esta foi a parte que gostei, a parte pela qual daria 4 estrelas ao livro. No entanto, Três Vezes Nós é um trabalho complicado de acompanhar e que exige alguma dedicação, isto porque não é fácil manter presente tudo o que vai acontecendo em cada uma das três vidas e situarmo-nos em cada uma delas em relação a profissões, filhos, netos, divórcios, casamentos, etc.

Esta dificuldade levava-me a afastar do livro o que, obviamente, só gerava ainda mais confusão e frustração quando voltava a pegar nele. Só depois de construir uma tabela com o registo do que tinha acontecido em cada versão e começar a usá-la como cábula para avançar no livro, completando-a com novas informações, é que comecei a ganhar mais interesse na história.

Este não é definitivamente um livro que devamos escolher se estivermos apenas à procura de entretenimento leve e descomprometido e se acabamos a gostar ou não dele depende se, para nós, a experiência e originalidade do livro compensa o esforço da leitura.
Profile Image for Deanna.
907 reviews53 followers
July 10, 2020
I enjoyed this “what if?” exploration, rather elegantly done.
Profile Image for Girl with her Head in a Book.
601 reviews182 followers
June 30, 2015
So. The word on the street (and by street, I mean Waterstones) is that this book is this year's The Miniaturist. I did not read The Miniaturist. I did however decide to give this one a shot and am very glad I did - I already picked it as one of my Favourite Books of 2015. Described as Sliding Doors meets One Day, The Versions Of Us tracks two people throughout their lives, throughout three different trajectories depending on three slightly different turns of events. As students in 1958, Eva rides her bike down a lane and in one version, her bike hits a nail and she falls, so Jim steps forward to her aid. The two of them meet and quickly fall in love. In another version of their lives, Eva misses the nail, cycles on past and stays with her original boyfriend, aspiring actor David. In the third telling of the story, Eva does meet Jim but obstacles spring up in their way. The same approximate cast of characters, three possible stories.

This has been done before - in last year's Life After Life, Ursula Todd was born, lived, died and lived again, revealing a different self each time. Going further back, Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World again examined how far one's life can really be changed by one simple action. Yet still, although Barnett is not the first to examine the question of the multiverse, The Versions Of Us is written with real sensitivity and warmth so that whether at their best or indeed at their worst, one cannot help but feel a sympathy for the characters, a hope that no matter how far their paths diverge, they will still find their way to that elusive happy ending.

Eva is the novel's true heroine - whether she is unhappily married to David or indifferently married to David or even just contentedly involved with someone else, she is the most consistently moral character. Jim is a nice man, a sweet man but under pressure, his flaws become exposed and although the version of him that was a young man seemed so much of a preferred option to David's arrogance, other incarnations are less appealing. In many ways, The Versions Of Us seems an argument for the notion that true love never does run smooth - although the first version of Eva and Jim's love story seems to be going so well, the reader knows to expect doom. And doom appears. Yet indeed, where would be the story in a life where nothing ever goes wrong?

On the whole though, this felt like a novel without true villains. Even the self-obsessed David was allowed redeeming qualities. There was a definite sense of just ordinary people reacting to events and trying their best. Still, the women definitely come out of this better than the men. Eva's angelic mother Miriam reveals that she fled Germany because Eva's biological father did not want the baby - I chose you - while Eva's mother-in-law Judith (in the versions of her life where she marries David) brings over food and apologies for her son's behaviour. One of the few constants across the three narratives is Eva's friendship with Penelope who provides a running commentary on the state of Eva's relationships. Barnett's afterword features a tribute to her own adored step-grandmother (and indeed she has written a whole article about her) and I had a feeling that this was a novel written by a woman who truly likes other women.

The Versions Of Us raises a number of different questions about fate, our senses of self but also equality issues within relationships. Eva's success in her writing appears to overshadow Jim's attempts to establish himself as a painter, then in her marriage to David, his acting career causes her to fade into the background. It is only when Jim is alone that he appears able to achieve true artistic triumph - even Ted, one of Eva's tertiary love interests, notes that he has been unable to find a lasting relationship until later in life because he has been so focussed on his career. Is it ever truly possible for two partners to achieve creative success simultaneously?

A big point though that I felt about this novel was also how we ourselves change beyond recognition. Reminiscing about childhood with her brother Anton, Eva is caught by how little she recognises him. Although there are many character traits which remain constant across the three narratives, Eva and Jim do become different versions of themselves based on the lives which they have led. This is something that I think is incredibly true - I look back on my life, a fairly short one so far, and can't help but think of how much I have changed. What would the five year-old with the big fringe who vowed never again to wear a dress make of the woman in her mid-twenties who essentially earns a living answering emails. Even more recently - I myself am constructing a new version of myself having left teaching last year. A big part of my identity used to be my job so it has been a big change in my life, but one that has made me very happy. I have seen friends change their outlooks based on circumstance, situation but more than anything due to their relationships - not even just in the case of abusive or overpowering relationships, but the people we love have the ability to alter our whole lives.

Throughout this book, there is that wafting sense of 'meant to be' - Eva says to Jim at one point that surely he does not believe in fate but yet the reader is left unsure. Jim's most celebrated painting is entitled The Versions Of Us and while another character dismisses the triptych structure as 'spot the difference', he feels offended as he means it to symbolise 'the many roads not taken, the many lives not lived'. That feeling of 'what if' is common to us all - my mother met my biological father while waiting for a train one day in Scotland while he was backpacking over from Australia. Were it not for that one chance meeting, their paths would never have crossed again and I would never have been born. I find it impossible to imagine a version of either of their lives where they would have stayed together but it seems so strange to realise that I owe my existence to such a random event. Yet still, odd though it may seem, that very poem The Road Not Taken itself comments on the fact that we can never truly know which events in our lives have truly made all of the difference. Perhaps there are not many possible paths for our lives, but just the one, the only one - does that make things easier or actually more terrifying?

For my full review: http://girlwithherheadinabook.blogspo...
Profile Image for Andrea .
208 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2016
I was attracted to this book after falling in love with "Sliding Doors" more than a decade ago. I'd also read the many favourable reviews and felt confident that it was a "safe bet".

I really enjoyed the first part of the book, it was beautifully written. However, I feel like the book lacks a climax. After such a promising start, the plot becomes rambling and I had to motivate myself to keep reading.

I love books that make you feel something, that make you laugh or cry. This one did neither.
Profile Image for Anne.
1,753 reviews
April 18, 2015
The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett is due for publication on 4th June by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in hardback and ebook formats: the publishers are calling it their biggest book of the year, the book the whole publishing industry wanted to buy. This week there was even the unprecedented news - before publication - that the television rights have been optioned by Trademark Films who are convinced it will make "a compelling television drama".

I very rarely read a book so far ahead of publication, and hardly ever review one. But I do like to publish my review straight away - while I'm still feeling everything I felt when I was reading the book - and I rather broke my own rules with this one when the publishers organised an online blogger event where the author was due to appear. So let's not call this a review - let's call it "one to look forward to" instead. Because having read the book, there's no way I can't talk about it. In terms of structure, emotional impact, originality and sheer readability, I thought it was quite wonderful, and I can wholly understand why the publishers are so convinced that they've got something really special.

I can imagine there will be readers who will worry about this one - a love story told three ways, the three different courses their lives could take, a bit of a reading challenge maybe? I have to say I found it quite effortless - I've seen reviewers who've mentioned making notes to keep track, but I far preferred to throw myself in and trust the author. She has a wonderful touch - this whole book has the intricate texture of lace. Every divergence and convergence is meticulously planned, those life and (particularly) death events that can't be escaped whichever path you take, the high and lows of every life. If the author planned this one out with post-it notes, it must have been an enormous wall. I'd love to ask her how she wrote it - story by story, or in that wonderfully organic way the reader approaches it. Hopefully I'll get the chance nearer the release date.

The whole book might not have been as mesmerising had Eva and Jim been less fascinating characters. I wasn't a fan of David Nicholls' One Day - comparisons are inevitably being made - but this is an infinitely broader canvas, a far longer timescale, more opportunity to flavour it with period detail, and quite crucially better developed characters giving the book a far greater emotional depth.

I loved this book - you can tell, can't you? But I know you'll forget... so I promise to remind you nearer the publication date. You're not going to want to miss this one...

My thanks to Rebecca Gray at Orion Books (W&N) for my advance reading copy.
Profile Image for Priscilla.
877 reviews16 followers
December 14, 2017
It was a painful book to read. Right from the start, I knew it wouldn't be my cup of tea. The first half of the book was slightly interesting (albeit uselessly complicated), but the romance between Jim and Eva is one of the most insta-love romances I've ever read. We don't know why they fall in love. It's literally as follows:

"I had an accident with my bike."
"Oh, let me help you! And we should grab a coffee."

*Next chapter*

"So Jim and Eva went back from their honeymoon..."

WUUUUT. NO. NO YOU CANNOT DO THAT. When I read romance, it's for the tension, the build-up towards the moment when the romance finally happens. This book was the most anti-climactic romance ever. Whoever thinks Twilight is a poor romance story has never stumbled upon this book, let me tell you. I believed more in the relationship between David and Eva, and David is supposed to be a lame husband. But we knew much more about their romance than Jim and Eva's! This is just ridiculous.

Then the book just went downhill and the last 200 pages were so, so boring. The characters are so, so NOT developed and I prefer character-driven books, which means I prefer books with fleshed-out characters. The characters didn't make me care about what happened to them (and the writing style didn't help). Oh and don't even get me started on the children. I care about children as much as I care about the last potato I ate. In each version, there were children, far too many children, and I cared about exactly NONE OF THEM.

The concept was good, but the execution was terrible. If this book hadn't been a gift, I would have DNF it after a couple of chapters. But I kept reading, hoping it would get better, and it just went worse. Each version was more pessimistic than the last. They had affairs, lived terribly boring lives without doing anything to change it (once again, David was more clever than Jim and Eva and took action when needed!). The book stretches over 60 years of their life and that was far too long too. If the book had focused on 10 years only, it might have been better. We could have actually known WHY Jim and Eva loved each other and that would have been, you know, A BIG PLUS as we're reading a ROMANCE. But you know, who I am to judge. Well still, I am judging this book.

Nope, nope, nope, I definitely do NOT recommend this book.
Profile Image for Robert Blumenthal.
785 reviews66 followers
July 21, 2016
I will start this review by stating that The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver is one of my favorite modern day novels. This is significant for two reasons: 1) it reveals that I really enjoy books about multiple possible scenarios based on one incident or decision, and 2) I like Shriver's handling of the technique so much that it becomes a virtual standard for the genre. Let me say that The Versions of Us is about as good as it gets it writing about multiple scenarios. And let it be said that if you tried and failed at enjoying The Post Birthday World, you probably won't like this one either.

Two young people meet cute over the girl falling off her bicycle near where he is (or not), and the author proceeds to create three (yes, count 'em, THREE) different scenarios that occur right after the incident. In one Jim and Eva fall in love and get married, in the second they live their separate lives (at least for a while), and in the third they meet but for reasons I won't reveal here, they do not get married right away. The stories are told as version one, version two and version three, and the book proceeds in chronological order with the dates as a heading for each section.

This could have been a complete mess, but Laura Barnett handles it beautifully, showing off her organizing and plotting skills, as well as her obvious strong general writing skills. She deals with many trials and tribulations (raising a family, dealing with dysfuctional parents, dealing with loving parents, establishing a career, affairs, unfilled desires, artistic development, jealousy, compassion, and, most notably, love). The greatest pleasure comes from seeing how these versions play out and, to be honest, it could be difficult to remember what exactly was happening in the three. Amazingly, I managed to keep myself current and felt a little proud that I was able to keep it all together. Part of this, I am sure, was due to the artful craft of the author. I was also intrigued how the relationship between Jim and Eva was able to be addressed in all three versions, though they may have completely different families.

So there. Obviously, I loved, loved, loved this novel. And I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of thing. And through it all, the last 20-30 pages were profoundly moving.
Profile Image for David Reviews.
159 reviews211 followers
April 21, 2015

We never know how things will turn out and Laura Barnett reminds us all of this in the brilliant The Versions Of Us. The fickle finger of fate is pointed in the direction of Jim & Eva. There is a moment in time when in 1958 they meet as 18 year old students that depending on one fateful decision by Eva will determine the outcome of the rest of their lives. It is in this ‘what if’ moment that the author takes the opportunity to tell us 3 possible versions of a love story.

The book is constructed rather beautifully and the two main characters of Jim and Eva are lovable and wonderfully drawn. The author takes us on an emotional ride across the years and brings home to us that none of us are perfect, we don’t make perfect decisions and a life will never end up being perfect. This is the case even with 3 versions of our story.

These imperfections in no way stop the author telling us fascinating stories of missed chances, love, death and heartbreak. I imagine after reading this book, like me, you could reflect on the past and wonder just ‘what if’ you had done something differently. How it may have affected your life and what kind of life an alternative you may have lived and seen. Laura Barnett has written an excellent first novel which provides tantalising storytelling and is extremely thought provoking. I can highly recommend that you read Jim & Eva's story (x3) for yourself.
Profile Image for Daniel Garwood.
Author 1 book18 followers
November 12, 2018
Cambridge, 1958. Eva turns her bicycle sharply to avoid a small dog. Her tyre meets with a rusty nail and tears. Jim witnesses the incident, offers to take her to his lodgings and repair the tyre. Eva accepts. Now, what if she didn’t swerve, and the dog jumped out of way, and Jim had no assistance to offer. And what if she swerved, fell off her bike, twisted her ankle and limped to the pub with Jim for a drink. Each scenario launches a different version of life for Eva and Jim.

Covering a period of almost 60 years, each chapter of ‘The Versions of Us’ updates each of the three versions of their life.

The book is essentially a romance novel – romance between Jim and Eva and between each of them and others in different versions of their life. Barnett balances the effect of chance and of choices that are made to determine their fate.

The structure is ambitious, but Barnett is technically competent and her writing style is pleasant to read. Flitting from one version of events to the other does require concentration as the ‘cast list’ is enormous.

This book was recommended to me as an example of quality writing within the romance genre. If, like me, romance is not your usual genre, it may well be worth dipping your toe with this novel.
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