Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

  • THE BOOK
    • The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
    • Published May 3, 2016
    • Other books by the author: none as this is her first novel.

  • THE PREMISE
    • In 1958 two students at Cambridge (Eva and Jim) meet when she rides her bike through campus.
      • In one version she gets a flat tire and they connect and eventually marry.
      • In a second version she just misses hitting a dog and Jim asks if she's okay and then they go their separate ways.
      • In the final version she falls off her bike, they date for a few months and then break up.
    • The book alternates among the three stories as they play out from 1958 through 2014.
    • There are professional successes and failures, children, lovers, marriages and family relationships threaded through each version. Sometimes you will see the same event (say, a 30th birthday party) in each version.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • It is confusing to follow each story.
      • There are shared characters in each version but the children born to Jim and Eva are different in each. That means there are many minor characters to keep track of and then even more when those kids grow up and have children of their own.
      • Each chapter lets you know which version is which.
      • About halfway through I kind of gave up and just read without stopping to check and remind myself which version I was following ("Wait, is this the one where they broke up?"). Ultimately it doesn't matter that you keep track.
        • Apparently some people go through the book and read each version separately.
    • OMG, the em dash usage! Here is a particularly egregious example:
      • "Stephen, it occurs to Jim now, is the only person who really knows every part of him --- even with Eva, he must edit himself, expunge those facts that might cause her pain (the erotic content of Helena's angry letters; the fact that Jakob had taken Jim aside, the first time they met, and warned him --- politely, discreetly, but a warning all the same --- never to do to Eva and her children what Jim had done to his other partner and child)."
        • Em dashes: three! A semi-colon! Parentheses! An em dash pair INSIDE the parentheses!
        • Here is the sentence directly before the above example:
          • "Jim thinks of all the nights he has sat with Stephen --- too many to count --- speaking of his love for Eva; his indecision; his feelings about his mother, his father."
            • More em dashing! More semi-colons!
        • Here are the two sentences directly after the egregious example:
          • Stephen knows all of this --- knows everything --- and he is still here. Still standing next to him."
            • Another em dash and a sentence fragment!
      • The usage is CONSTANT. Let me open to random pages and count: 7 on page 185, 4 on page 282, 8 on page 248, 7 on page 75, etc...
        • I am no book editor but I think someone should have told the author to figure out a different way to write certain passages. Some sentences are so long that I completely forgot the beginning of the sentence by the time I got to the period.
        • This took me out of the story so completely during the second half of the book which is a shame because I really liked the story, er...stories. I got misty-eyed by the end of the book and I think I might have cried had I not been too busy counting em dashes! 
        • Maybe I'm wrong about em dash usage but sentences with em dashes, semi-colons AND parentheses MUST be TOO MUCH.
    • Recommended for those who like love stories, lots of em dashes, books like One Day and The Time Traveler's Wife or parallel universe stories --- the movies "Sliding Doors" and "It's a Wonderful Life" and Star Trek's Mirror Universe to name a few examples.

1 comment:

  1. en dashed the em dash, pausing sightly longer than a comma, but not halting like a colon -- punctuating the moment -- then dashing out to complete the clause.

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