Version Two Laura Barnett likes romance, but she’s a bit suspicious of the happy-ever-after premise. Although still young herself, she doesn’t agree that later-life get-togethers are somehow inferior to younger couplings. She sets herself the task of writing a novel that will follow the same two characters across their entire adult lives through three different versions of their story: one in which they marry young and two in which they don’t, Eva instead marrying her original boyfriend, the narcissistic actor, David. In these latter two, Eva and Jim’s paths cross intermittently, in one version resulting in an extramarital affair, another in which they recognise their mutual attraction but, either through circumstances or restraint, they remain loyal to their other partners.
My Version I don’t know which of these versions – if any – is most true to the author’s intentions, but I do know that, of the three novels I’ve read recently exploring alternate versions of a life (My Real Children and The End of Days), this is the one I most enjoyed. But I do have some reservations. The three different plotlines are presented chronologically, moving between them in short (very filmic) scenes. Although each version of the story is clearly indicated, I did struggle to keep in mind which details belonged where. I’m probably not the ideal reader, as I tend to like my fictional romance to take more of a back seat and I rarely get excited about writers and other artists as characters. Nevertheless, a worthy debut, the object of Weidenfeld and Nicholson’s (to whom thanks for my advance proof copy) biggest marketing and publicity campaign of the year.
Apologies if this review isn’t up to the usual standard; my computer failed to save the version I wrote at the weekend, so I’ve had to redo it to get this out for publication day tomorrow. Fortunately, given that I’d taken few notes, the unusual structure I’d chosen for this one has helped keep most of it in mind, and I’ve managed to rattle it off in under an hour (probably less time than I wasted looking for it). I was tempted to post the gobbledygook that it had saved, but then you’d probably be as frustrated as I was!