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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

It's 1958. A female student has just had a puncture on her way to a lecture in Cambridge. A male student stops to help her. It's the beginning of a love story. However, from this point on we see three different versions of their story play out. Significant moments in the characters' lives diverge: a small hesitation, a loss of confidence and everything is changed.


In none of the version do things work out perfectly for the lovers but some outcomes are definitely better than others. What Laura Barnett demonstrates through these alternative scenarios is how we are both the sum of our decisions and also more than them.


This is a remarkably well written book. The competing narratives could very easily undermine each other.  In fact, the reverse is true: the characters are so completely believable and the minutiae of their emotional lives so authentically detailed that the branching plotlines are self-reinforcing, making the characters seem even more solid.


Admittedly, it's a demanding read. You have to remember which version of the story you're following at any one time: who is married to whom, who is divorced from whom and what the other family members are up to. But's it's a thoroughly  enjoyable challenge.