The Versions of Us was billed as a mixture between One Day and Sliding Doors which was enough to get me interested.
In all three versions Eva, a Cambridge college student in 1958, has an issue with her bicycle. In two of the three time lines she is rescued by Jim, a law student who would rather be studying art, and in the third they go their separate ways down the street. In both instances that Eva and Jim meet Eva breaks up with her actor boyfriend, David, but in one story line Eva discovers she is pregnant with David’s baby and ends her relationship with Jim before things get too serious. In this version, and the version she doesn’t meet Jim at all, she marries David but in the first version she marries Jim. In both instances that Jim doesn’t marryEva he has a relationship with a woman named Helena.
Confusing? A little bit but it’s pretty easy to follow along (especially since each story line has them with differently named kids). Certain plot points happen in each time line (key character deaths in particular) but there are probably more differences than similarities. I listened to the audiobook and it is narrated by a man or woman depending on the main perspective which also helped to keep things organized.
The first half of the book is pretty wonderful; the character’s have slight variations in their circumstances and the plot moves at a steady pace. Things begin to fall apart the farther the story goes. Barnett opts to skip decades in an effort to tie her character’s stories into neat little bows in the present day. One review I read said they read each version as a stand alone and the weaknesses are blatant.
It is clear that Barnett favors Eva, her character rarely makes choices that you want to scream about, but she gives satisfying endings to the three sets of Jims and Evas.
“Now do you understand,’ he said, ‘you were with me all along?”