Books That Take Risks With Structure—and Live To Tell The Tale

Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us, picks seven novels that play with the constructs of linear time.


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I still remember the first novel that totally blew apart my preconceptions about how a story could be told. It was Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: I was 14, and already set on becoming a writer, and that clever, tricksy, utterly unputdownable book, with its intricately layered examination of time, made me all the more determined to take risks with my own writing.

I kept that in mind while writing my own debut novel, The Versions of Us—a multiple love story in which the relationship between two characters, Eva and Jim, is told, from beginning to end, in three different versions. 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. Here are the risk-taking books that play with structure, which I keep on my shelf for inspiration.

Author photo: Charlie Hopkinson
Feature Image: Veronika By/Shutterstock

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About Laura Barnett

The Watch

LAURA BARNETT is a writer, journalist, and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and is now a freelance arts journalist and features writer, working for the Guardian, the Observer, and Time Out London, as well as several other national newspapers and magazines. The Versions of Us is her first novel. She lives in London.

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