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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

"The Versions of Us" by Laura Barnett

Cambridge. 1958. Eva,a nineteen year old student at Cambridge, swerves to avoid a dog. What happens?

In story one Jim offers to repair her puncture. They become boyfriend and girlfriend after she has broken off her affair with actor David.

In story two she rides on, ignoring Jim. She marries her boyfriend David.

In story three Jim and Eva get together until she discovers that she is pregnant by her former boyfriend David. She refuses to ask Jim to care for another man's child. Instead she goes back to David and they get married.

And these stories, set by chance onto different arcs, continue through the years. They grow old and have children. Eva the wannabe writer writes. Jim the wannabe painter paints. David becomes a Hollywood star. As each new set of events happen we discover what is happening in story one, two, and three. Sometimes they come together for family celebrations. Sometimes their stories continue on isolated paths. The names and numbers of children on different trajectories are different. Sometimes you have to concentrate hard to remember which path you are on. Who is married to whom. But it is cleverly done, though with less humour (and fewer tears) than in One Day by David Nicholls, the book it most resembles.

I did wonder why we have to be so firmly in the glittering world of painters and writers and actors. Ordinary people were a little hard to find. And the message of the book seems to be that domesticity stifles creativity.

Lines I wish I'd written:

  • "The stranger beams at him. 'You're British!' This said triumphantly, as if he might have forgotten." (p 83)
  • "you think snow is white, but it's not - it's silver, purple, grey. Look closely. Every flake is different. You must always try to show things as they are." (p 100)
  • "Men with cruel, handsome faces and unseeing eyes. Men who always won the game, without even bothering to learn the rules." (p 101)
  • "Dullness isn't contagious." (p 117)
  • "the relief that comes with the first drink - the sense that he is reconfiguring the world, making it comprehensible." (p 247)

Although the structure of the book can make it difficult to keep track of all the elements of the stories and to make sure that they didn't cross from narrative to narrative, and perhaps that is part of the point, this book was still capable of ensuring that the reader empathised with and even identified with the characters and it packed a powerful emotional punch in the end.

May 2018; 401 pages

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