A NO. 1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
'The beautiful love child of David Nicholl's One Day and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life'
What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog: what happens next will determine the rest of their lives.
As we follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - their love story takes on different incarnations, as it twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
'A triumphant debut.. a thoughtful, measured book about the interplay of chance and destiny in our lives'
'An utterly convincing love story about two people destined to be together somehow, no matter what'
'Like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or the film Sliding Doors, this fine debut offers multiple "what ifs"... Involving and poignant'
The Sunday Times
'The tantalising "what if?" theme keeps all three stories going at a cracking pace'
'Truly enthralling... I simply adored this wonderful novel'
Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist
British journalist Barnett's debut novel imagines the delicious prospect of romantic do-overs, cleverly negotiating the tricky and often dizzying terrain of three versions of first love. Eva and Jim first cross paths in 1958, and in "Version One," aspiring writer Eva's bike runs over a nail and law student Jim fixes it, with the pair falling instantly in love and marrying. In "Version Two," Eva's bike misses the nail, and she marries her actor boyfriend, David. "Version Three" starts similarly to the first version, but this time, Eva leaves Jim when she discovers she's pregnant with David's child. The stories and careers variously unfold across 50 years the "Version Two" Eva and Jim finally meet in 1963 in New York with parents aging, children growing up and moving on, spouses moving in and out, with Eva's writing and Jim's painting flourishing or withering depending on the version. The constants are love and death and the portraits of Eva that Jim has drawn. In the first version, Eva views the one portrait as a "version of her. His version, or the version she once offered him." In the second version, a 1977 triptych depicts "three couples. Three lives. Three possible versions," a reminder of Jim's declaration that "you were there with me all along." In the third version, the painting feels like something Jim had long ago forgotten. Barnett's evocative presentation is a masterly romantic study of love's choices and consequences, leaving wide open just what constitutes a perfect ending.
Versions of Us
I loved reading this book. It was so beautifully put together and interwoven. It didn't really matter if you lost track of which 'version' you were reading at any moment in time as the central characters, Eva and Jim, are both wonderfully flawed and engaging.
I am sorry to have finished it now.