A book by Laura Barnett. I implore you to read it! I wanted to write a review while it was fresh in my head, but my time ran away with me and I’m working 6 days a week at the moment.
What if you had said yes…?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.
What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.
We follow three different versions of their future- together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twits and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
I was mesmerised by this beautiful book. My copy is absolutely gorgeous with lemon bicycle printed endpapers and a detailed green hardback. I’m jealous of Laura Barnett. She’s a journalist with the Guardian and this is her first novel. And what a story it is.
Even in the version where Eva and Jim don’t be together, they are inexplicably linked and drawn together throughout their whole lives. I loved it because the version you think you are rooting for, when they get together and that is that…twists and tragedies still occur and the whole situation is messy and not how you might have imagined it. There are lovely clever things such as in the version where they have been together around ten years and are going to a 30th birthday party. Eva is wearing a playsuit and feels good but a slightly drunken and bitter Jim says ‘You aren’t wearing that are you? You look like an overgrown baby.’ An upset Eva changes. However in the next chapter in a version where Eva and Jim are merely acquaintances Jim is delighted to find Eva at this party and complimentsher. She is wearing the playsuit. She wore it because there was no Jim to tell her not to… My heart.
Some people complained that the troop of different characters (including the fluctuations of different children!) are confusing, but I think it was really interesting and anyway, ultimately everyone else falls away because the book is about Eva and Jim. I read the book over several weeks (it was too heavy to take to Prague) and I was definitely savouring it.
The writing is really beautiful and full of wisdom. I found myself wanting to underline parts of it. I instagrammed sentences.
It scared me about love and it rang true, it broke my heart and it made me cry real tears at the kitchen table on my day off. A real work of art and will stay with me for a long time.