Review: The Versions of Us, by Laura Bennett

Synopsis: 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.

Title: The Versions of Us
Author: Laura Bennett
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Pub Date: 7th July 2005
Pages: 403
ISBN: 9781474600897

Rating:

“Footfalls echo in the memory.
Down the passage which we did not take”
-T.S. Eliot

I rarely give five stars to a book. It not only has to be gripping, but it has to move me, to change my perceptions or, more dramatically, my life. This book did just that.

The Versions of Us wasn’t just a brilliant story, it came at an incredibly apt time in my life. Being on the cusp of the dreaded age of 25 (ok, fine, 30), you can’t help but start to think of all the ‘what if’s’ that have taken place.

What if you took out your headphones, looked up from your book, and said hi to the gorgeous guy sat opposite you?

What if you didn’t?

What if you never even got on the train?

And, in the book’s case, what if Eva said yes to a drink from a stranger who helps her up after she falls off her bike?

Think Sliding Doors meets Life after Life. The story is beautifully crafted and filled with complex and realistic characters. The real beauty, however, is not the writing itself, but the way in which Bennett writes three versions of one story that keeps you engaged and emotionally attached. I found myself reading slower, not because I was bored, but because I didn’t want it to end.

The best thing about this book (OK, in all honesty, it was what I hated whilst reading the story, but loved after I’d finished) is that the version you think is the nicest, isn’t necessarily the best. The hopeless romantic in me swooned at one of the versions, despaired at the other, and hated the last. As the plot progressed, my happy beginning turned into a nightmare. It was the version I hated that, despite turning out to be the hardest and most painful path to follow, ended up the happiest in the end.

“He stands for a moment before opening the studio door… 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.”

This is a story about the tiny decisions that determine our fate.

This is a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we move through the different stages of our lives.

This is a story you need to read.

“And then they walk away together, out of the allotted grooves of their afternoons and into the thickening shadows of evening, into the dim, liminal place where one path is taken, and another missed.”

3 thoughts on “Review: The Versions of Us, by Laura Bennett

  1. Café Society says:

    I tried so hard to like this book. Everyone I knew was raving about it. But, in the end, I was just so bored by the main characters that I couldn’t be bothered to find out what happened to them in one life, let alone three. Oh well! Neither I nor the author can win them all.

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