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review 2017-02-03 03:35
The Versions of Us
The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

I chose this book on NetGalley because the premise, that a singular moment could open up three distinct possibilities, was appealing. “The one thing that's certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . .” Barnett has set the book up in a rotation for each of the different storylines, so you follow the thread of a particular future every three chapters. I think she did this to keep everything chronological; with the three stories side by side you are able to compare the different paths in real time. However, in a kindle format this can be confusing — challenging to go back and find out who’s with who.


As a fan of stories about artists and writers, I appreciated the way Barnett wove these elements into the plot. Barnett writes with wit, charm and an eye for detail, but even her eloquent prose cannot overcome a less than captivating group of characters. While these main characters loomed large over everyone else, most of the minor characters remained virtually the same no matter what happened in the different plots, which was a shame, because I liked many of them. While I am not an unbridled romantic, I did find it unrealistic that no couple in this book could remain faithful in marriage. There are all sorts of rationalizations and “higher art” themes to justify this, but I found it annoying, and, in some cases, Woody Allen-esque-ridiculous in terms of highly unlikely pairings. I did appreciate (but also, sadly, unlikely) that Eva was wildly successful no matter which path she followed — so yes, girl power and all that, but still. Some of those comments make me feel silly and prudish, but if none of that would bother you, have at it. I remain hopeful that Barnett’s best is yet to come.

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text 2016-12-28 11:39
Arrogance And Innocence
Greatest Hits - Laura Barnett

Two decades after Cass Wheeler, a hugely successful British singer-songwriter, retired abruptly from the music business, she is preparing to break her silence and release simultaneously an album of new material alongside an album of her greatest hits. The narrative of Laura Barnett's novel is structured around a day that Cass spends listening to each of the chosen tracks for her Greatest Hits album and remembering the events that inspired them.


Cass's reminiscences stretch right back to the early days of her career and Barnett does a very good job of evoking the heady sense of freedom of the nineteen seventies as the structures of post-war Britain, breached by the cultural explosion of the sixties, begin to crumble away, revealing a world where anything seems possible.


Unfortunately for Cass, the promises that a life of music seemed to offer turn out to be hollow: marital breakdown, the incompatibility of motherhood and the music business, and the mental illness of her daughter all conspire to turn her dream of unfettered creativity into a nightmare of recrimination.


It's an immensely readable novel. For me, however, the weak link is the lyrics with which each new section begins. Significant claims are made for them as the kind of songs that might speak to a generation but I wasn't entirely convinced. But this is no more than a quibble, amply compensated by the strongly drawn personality of Cass  -  flawed, damaged but always struggling towards redemption - and by the portrait of an era, already almost forgotten, full of arrogance, enthusiasm and a naïve kind of innocence.

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review 2016-04-12 18:30
The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

#THEVERSIONSOFUS  AVAILABLE 5/3/16  4 STARS INTERESTING CONCEPT AND READ  @laura_jbarnett  @HMHCo  This was an interesting book as it looked at three people and how different their lives would have been if they had taken different paths. While I was pretty much keeping up with the different versions, I got a little confused when other kids from new partners, etc. started showing up. That's my fault though, not the authors. It's my memory issues and plus I had several interruptions.

I thought this was a different take on writing a book. I have never really read anything exactly like this before and found it quite enjoyable and interesting. I did find it interesting that a man in the situation of being on his own became a huge success, yet the same man married to a woman who was the breadwinner was pretty much a drunk mess.

Huge thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Net Gallery for the opportunity to read and review this e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2016-03-01 12:52
The Versions of Us/Laura Barnett
The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

In one moment, two lives will be changed forever . . . and forever . . . and forever.

The one thing that's certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . . They fell wildly in love, or went their separate ways. They kissed, or they thought better of it. They married soon after, or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together, or found solace together only after hard years spent apart. With The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett has created a world as magical and affecting as those that captivated readers in One Day and Life After Life. It is a tale of possibilities and consequences that rings across the shifting decades, from the fifties, sixties, seventies, and on to the present, showing how even the smallest choices can define the course of our lives.

I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did, but it ended up being ridiculously hard to follow which version I was reading.


This book was told in three versions and chapters alternated in various orders focusing on one of two characters. While each chapter was clearly marked with which version it was about, I had to write down a quick description of which version referred to which plot in order to keep track of where I was.


Additionally, remembering which characters were doing what became challenging. In all three versions, children were born and each had a distinct personality, and three different sets of spouses and divorces and friends came along with three different lives. I felt like this book should have been a pleasant read, but instead I was juggling names constantly.


Though I normally adore books written in present tense, it felt finicky here. I was constantly aware of it and it was constantly jolting me out to reread sentences to check for congruency.


I did think the concept of this book was fabulous, how one minor decision could completely and utterly change a life, and I enjoyed the way certain threads of the stories stayed constant throughout all three. However, it wasn't enough to really captivate me.


The concept of this was great and I did enjoy the ultimate ending, but getting through this book was a serious struggle at some points.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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review 2015-08-26 10:37
The versions of us by Laura Barnett
The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

I must admit I was sceptical about whether I would like this book, after seeing it was set in different timelines. I can find non-linear books confusing or worse boring as they break up the flow of the narrative. Thankfully for 'versions of us' this was not the case. I became so involved in Eva and Jim's love story (and almost love stories) that I was able to follow the three versions easily.

Not wanting to give away any spoilers it is safe to say that I really rooted for Eva and Jim in whatever timeline they were in, and loved their interactions with each other and the supporting characters.

The stories are beautifully written and each individual seemed realistic, regardless of how briefly they appeared.

This was another book which really made me think. The idea of what if? What if I had said yes? What if I had been brave? Done this/not done this differently... It showcases perfectly how fragile life is and how the choices we make really do mould us and the paths we take. Of course we will never know, what if? As the choices we have made, the yeses and the nos have all brought us to here, wherever here may be.

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