Thursday, 23 June 2011

Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

Some books you just know that you have to read. Working in a bookshop gives me access lots and lots of great books, and I'd noticed that a few people would pick up the Norwegian translation of Love Virtually, despite the paperback cover being a bit more anonymous than most these days. The other day we got the second book by Glattauer, Every Seventh Wave, which is the follow-up to Love Virtually. Curious at last, I picked up Love Virtually (the Norwegian copy), opened it up and read the first couple of pages. The verdict was clear: I have to read this book!

I read the book in the course of an evening. It takes you on quite an emotional ride. At one point I was completely in love with the book. Then it broke my heart a few times. And then it left me empty. I'm glad I'll start reading Every Seventh Wave today, because I have to know what'll happen.

I'm not a fan of typical sappy love stories. I avoid romance novels (and films alike). The english title of this book, Love Virtually, sounds like the type of book I prefer not to read. But this is nothing like a sappy love story. As a love story, it is very different from anything I've read before.

An email sent to the wrong person triggers a correspondence between Emmi and Leo. Email after email pass between them, and the increasing interest in each other literally skips off the pages (or screen, in their case?). The characters are funny and vivid, their dialogue is amusing and intelligent, and of course Leo's research on emotional communication through emails gives it all an added dimension.

Leo points out that since they do not know each other physically, they have to read each other between the lines, and on the lines. The same goes for us as readers. We know little more about these characters than they are willing to expose to each other. And as Leo again points out, they have this dance of revealing as little about themselves as they can, so as to stay mystical and interesting to each other. So we are left as completely in the dark as they themselves are.

Eventually, however, personal things are revealed, with, at times, upsetting consequences. One of them is married with children, whereas the other keeps trying to reignite a destructive relationship. Simultaneously, Emmi and Leo's relationship evolves into something less innocent than merely email friends. The action is driven towards a need to meet and finally know each other physically, but this meeting keeps being postponed. As frustrating for the reader as for Emmi and Leo. As we get closer and closer to the climax of this final personal encounter, the story takes an unexpected turn, which left me feeling quite empty. As my boss, who's also read the book put it: "I was so angry at the end. This is a crap book. Why did it have to end this way?" This was before she knew there was a second book.

I really enjoyed this book. It is definately relevant in our time and age. The language of the novel is beautiful, the characters are funny and likeable, and the story is built up really well, with increasing suspense and frustration for the characters and readers simultaneously. At the same time it is also quite an upsetting read. Issues of fidelity is questioned, and Leo asks when is it cheating? When you exchange emails? When you listen to someone's voice on your receiver? When you dream of kissing someone? When you actually have sex with someone? As the reader I can't quite tell when the line has been crossed, and when they pass the point of no return.

I can't wait to read The Seventh Wave now and tell you my final verdict. I just hope I'm not left hanging the way I was at the end of Love Virtually.

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