Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book review: Love Virtually

Side note: A slightly edited version of this review originally appears on the women24 website, which you can find here.

Additional Note:
Not a YA novel, but I reckon that lovers of YA fiction will love this one as much as I did. Tons of YA reviews to follow after this. :)
Love Virtually
A modern, witty, comedy-of-errors look at just what happens when two people connect through a series of accidental email exchanges.

Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer (Quercus)
Favourite quote from the book: "Write to me Emmi. Writing is like Kissing, but without lips. Writing is kissing with the mind."
It starts in an unexpected, but not completely uncommon manner.

Emmi, a happily married woman, sends a few e-mails to a subscription service with the intent of unsubscribing to a magazine.

By chance, these e-mails inadvertently somehow always manage to end up landing in Leo Leike's inbox.

And thus begins a daily exchange of conversation filled with witticisms, simmering romantic tension and the sharing of inner most longings between two people who are, in essence, virtual strangers to one another.

As with most people who meet online, the inevitable subject of meeting each other outside the virtual realm crops up. Will they meet? And if they do, what happens when the reality isn't as grand as the web-spun fantasy?

Is Emmi really prepared to risk her marriage? And what if Leo can't reconcile fantasy Emmi with real Emmi?

What happens then?

Many readers have said this, but if you're a fan of David Nicholls's work (particularly One Day, which happens to be one of my all-time favourite reads), then you will love this epistolary novel by Austrian author, Daniel Glattauer.

The entire book is written in e-mail format and is a fast-paced, witty and wonderfully relatable novel which was translated to English by Husband and wife duo Jamie Bulloch (Leo's voice) and katharina Bielenberg (Emmi).

I must confess I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but the easy, relaxed writing style (so reminiscent of what most of us would sound like on e-mail), won me over pretty quickly. 

Daniel Glattauer has a way with words and writes such fabulously snappy, clever dialogue that you can't help but wish that you were on the receiving end of any one of the e-mail responses conducted throughout the entire novel.

There's an immediate rapport between Emmi and Leo, who each, seem to try and outdo each other in the sharp, spunky, quick-witted comeback stakes.

That there's a virtual chemistry becomes apparent pretty quickly, but with that online attraction, comes a whole new set of emotional issues, jealousy, insecurities and harsh accusations which stems from the fact that the two of them haven't met face to face. 

Strangely enough, the roles seem to be reversed and Leo seems to be reluctant to meet, while Emmi, despite the fact that she's happily married (or so claims to be), is dead keen on meeting the face behind the E-mail based persona (Somehow, I've always thought that women are more reluctant to meet their online "friends").

I thought that Glattauer was pretty accurate in his portrayal of how easy it is to make assumptions when you're not face to face with someone and adeptly showcases how people become trapped in their own perception of what they think is being said as opposed to what they're reading.

He drives home the fact that reading people online is no easy feat and that what people perceive as being real, could be the opposite of what they've initially thought.

It's this that makes the characters so interesting.

Both are not without their flaws; Emmi especially tends to be abrasive and jealously possessive, while hypocritically enough, often refuses to open up about her family life. In fact, Emmi reminds me a lot of Emma from One Day, who was also not all that likeable.

Leo, on the other hand, is often restrained and selfishly persists in holding on the image of the fantasy Emmi that he's carved in his mind.

Yet, for all that, there's an inherent likability about both of them; two lost souls, who accidentally discovers what it means to be virtual soul mates. But how that translates itself into real life and whether they actually end up meeting is something you'll have to discover for yourself.

What I can say is that you should be prepared for a few unexpected twists and an unexpected ending that leaves room for a sequel, which I believe is already in the works.

It's a wonderfully addictive novel which can be read in one sitting, and which I believe will appeal to everyone who has ever tried and succeeded and tried and failed at the online dating game. 

You may probably end up inevitably feeling like you're invading the intensely private and intimate liaison between two illicit lovers, but don't let that stop you from reading what I consider to be one of the most cleverly written and incredibly romantic (despite the virtual settings) novels of this year so far.

7 comments:

Jenny said...

Huh. The email format of this one has me really curious, I've never read a book set up that way! I think you make a good point about the casual style of the emails making it easier for us to get involved in the story. I love unexpected twists and endings too, so I might have to check this one out!

Jan von Harz said...

I definitely think I would love this both for the format and the virtual romance aspect of it. I love a book that is witty and deals with all the issues you discussed. Lovely review!

terri-maree said...

This sounds like a very interesting read, very relevant for our techno relationships.

It is awesome to stumble across a South African book blog!!! They should start a directory.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

This sounds like a fun and very different read! Great review! :)

Straylights said...

I love that this is in email format. I don't know why but I really like reading letters. Probably why I liked the movie You've Got Mail hehe

Aisle B said...

This is the IT topic of our times now. Reality strikes when clandestine hearts meet via e mails. A throwback to the old times when actual letters were posted - the creativity of words to illicit emotions, sometimes to hard to describe.

I'd be curious to know what develops between the two since Emmi is very married and Leo's reluctance might inhibit his fantasy of what he thinks "she is".

Isn't it amazing how on the net, we judge by what we "read" and interpret whilst we're only being given this dimension for our character appraisal.

I'll be adding this one since you've convinced me of it's appeal. You have yet to prove me wrong ;)

Miss Page-Turner said...

The story of Love Virtually sounds good! I have to give it or Glattauer's other novel a try since you loved them both so much!