What’s it all about?:
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.
What did I think?:
The Versions Of Us is the first book on the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year in the UK and is already a book I’ve heard a lot about. It is essentially a love story but a story of three different versions over about a seventy year time period as the author demonstrates how one tiny decision can lead to your life going down a completely different path. This isn’t exactly a unique concept for a book – Kate Atkinson uses a similar theme in her novel Life After Life and one of my all-time favourite films, Sliding Doors also explores this idea but I loved the way it was executed in this novel.
The two main characters are Eva and Jim, who are both nineteen years old and students when they first meet, although in all versions Eva already has a boyfriend, David which makes things slightly more complicated for their blossoming romance (in one version in particular!). Furthermore, in one version Eva merely passes him on her bike and the two do not speak at all yet certain things and major life events lead to them being aware of the other in their periphery, even if it is through mutual friends.
As I mentioned, there are three separate story-lines to contend with in this novel and at times this made for a wonderful reading experience whilst at other times I found myself struggling for several different reasons. Firstly, the “versions” did not follow each other in any ordered sequence. For example, Version One may be followed by Version Three and then switches back to Version One before carrying on with Version Two. This meant I often found myself desperately trying to remember exactly what version I was reading and what had happened previously in that version. Hope that makes sense! Secondly, there were a number of minor characters, in particular children and lovers that were completely different from version to version. I have to say however, it didn’t take me longer than about a page before I had everything straightened out in my head and the narrative was written in such a compelling way that I was never frustrated for long.
I think this book definitely stands out against other stories in the same genre purely because of the realistic way in which it was presented. This whole big messy ball of life is in no way perfect for anyone. There are always going to be setbacks, challenges to face and general bumps in the road and we’re not all guaranteed that happy ever after or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Relationships in particular are notoriously changeable, especially over a long period of time and the author proposes that things may need to be worked on from time to time to ensure the longevity of a partnership, The characters too are incredibly normal with very real flaws who make very ordinary mistakes.
This story got me thinking so much about life and the paths not taken. What would happen if I had made a different decision at a particular point? Would I still be in the same place now with the same people around me? In the novel, Jim paints a picture which he names The Versions Of Us that explores this exact concept and I loved letting my imagination run wild on a few lives that I may have led. On the other hand, the author also explores the idea that even though some situations are very changeable, some things may still be set in stone. Both Eva and Jim make the same career choice for example and there are life events (one in particular that I won’t spoil) which appear to be destined. Are there some things we cannot change? If you’re anything like me, you will thoroughly enjoy this fantastic debut novel that certainly gives food for thought. It’s splendidly written and near enough impossible to put down.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):