Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

Love Virtually - Daniel GlattauerLove Virtually – Daniel Glattauer
Translated from the German Gut gegen Nordwind by Jamie Bulloch and Katharina Bielenberg

MacLehose Press, 2012
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

Love Virtually is, as the title says, a book about virtual love. About an email affair between two people who meet serendipitously online. Although, perhaps I should not call it an affair, as really, the characters – Leo and Emmi – do not know how to define it themselves: is it friendship, is it a kind of virtual diary, is it more, but how much more? And will whatever it is stand the test of a real life meeting. Would they dare make that step, and what will happen?

I feel my post should come with a huge disclaimer. It would read: I have a hate-sadness relationship with books that verge into the arena of adultery. It is because it is one of my biggest nightmares of possible occurrences. Moreover, I was not won over by the marketing of this book: its title, its original cover which featured a cupid that in my eyes was almost devil-like, its premise of a novel completely told through email exchange (even if I do not dislike epistolary novels). I was resistant to reading this book. And I have been strong in my resistance for two years. Until a review copy of the sequel landed on my doormat. Until I was reminded of all the excitement about Love Virtually. Until I remembered Sasha’s review in which she mentions her resistance and how the book won her over anyway. So I caved, and read it, in order to prepare for, to decide if I even wanted to read, the second installment.

The thing is, I find I have very little to say about this book that has not been said before. It is addictive. A strange and sometimes uncomfortable addictiveness as you keep on following the email exchange of two persons who are falling for each other, in some way or other, while also struggling to maintain their other relationships: Leo with his on and off again girlfriend Marlene, and Emmi with her husband, Bernhard, with which she claims to be happily married. It is voyeuristic at times. The narratives lapse at times, I felt. At times I was frustrated by the endless repeat of “shall we meet?” “should we?” “what for?” “what would happen?” The circular reasoning. And yet, I could not put the book down. I read it during a train journey and 5 pages before the end I arrived at my destination. Again: frustrating. But this time because I was hooked. With all my resistance to any hint of adultery. With all my resistance to what this book told me about happy marriage (or Emmi’s definition of it, anyway, because I think – call me naive – that marriage can be happy and companionable, and  perhaps things become routine at times, but I want to believe that you can choose to be there for each other, to make it exciting sometimes, I don’t know). But for all my resistance, I secretly became a bit of an Emmi and Leo shipper.

I also wondered at how I felt about Emmi. I might have disliked her more than Leo, even if both are flawed. I’m starting to notice that I dislike it when in a book I like a male character so much more than a female character. If I feel that she’s being more of an obstacle to anything than the other character. It makes me wonder if I’m consciously pushed to do so by the author. And I do not know what to make of it.

All in all, I was puzzled by my own fascination while reading it. Probably because I had been so resistant to even contemplate liking it from the very start. In conclusion: this is a post in which I admit how sometimes I read a book going in with an overwhelming prejudice against it. And how I fight against my slow conversion to liking it. And how it sucks me in anyway. And how in the end, I do not know what to write because really, all I can say is: This is a great read, it will make you want to keep on reading. I have not quite decided whether or not it is of stellar quality. I cannot quite shake the feeling, as often happens with books that have this addictiveness over them, whether or not it holds up aside from that aspect of it. No, that’s not true. It is definitely deeper than just a love affair. It is an exploration of virtual relationships. Of how they might be able to offer us something other than what we have in real life. Something that is not less “real”, but perhaps more complimentary to real life. It also discusses the very fragility of security in life, in how we want to uphold the idea that our lives are stable, but how that is not always – not often – true. Perhaps that is why this book scares me, while it convinced me at the same time.

I am infinitely glad that I do not do ratings. For all my conflicted feelings do not translate to any rating expressed in 1 to 5 stars. I will be honest: I will always feel conflicted about this book. Nevertheless, while reading, I liked it, despite all of that. I could not look away. Could not help it. So there you have it. I think most people would feel less conflicted anyway. And might therefore feel less weird about admitting: yes, I read it, I enjoyed it, I liked it very much.

Other Opinions: The Little Reader Library, Book Monkey, Beauty is a Sleeping Cat, Winstonsdad’s Blog, Leeswammes’ Blog,  Vulpes Libris, rikkis teleidoscope,  DizzyC’s Little Book Blog, Sasha & the Silverfish, Farm Lane Books.
Did I miss your post about this book? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

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9 responses to “Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

  1. Wow, I’m impressed you decided to read this at all, given your strong feelings.. Which I understand, by the way, broken trust like that must get pretty ugly.
    I will definitely get this. I love email stories, they’re so perfectly descriptive of the way many of us communicate with each other these days and of the way people relate. Also, I hardly ever read anything translated from the German and think it would be cool to have this on my list. :-)

  2. I liked it very much and the German cover and title made it look much more serious than the English.I thought it had a lot to say about many aspects of relationships and it’s captivating and fresh.

  3. I haven’t read either book, but listened to the BBC adaptations and was so captivated that I have now ordered them from my library. I understand you reticence at reading this book (affairs/email form). Funnily enough none of your concerns about it put me off, but I’ve found that I can be very judgemental on lots of levels about some books before even picking them up and yet they often surprise me and surpass my expectations. I am trying to learn to be more open minded and try things, but not get too hung up if it’s not for me after all! I’m glad you enjoyed it and hope you enjoy Every Seventh Wave too!
    Sarah

  4. I m a big fan of this book I just love the way it draws you in and makes you turn page after page ,many thanks for the mention as well ,all the best stu

  5. I looooooove epistolary novels. I’d rather they consist of letters rather than emails, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that much. I love them enormously. So I shall add this to my list in spite of my serious reservations in re: adultery. I find it as bothersome as you, except I suppose when the cuckolded spouse is abusive or something. (In which case there are other things for me to find bothersome.)

  6. If you wanted to make me curious to read this book there was no better way than to say you’ve resisted reading it for so long and then actually liked it. I’ll make sure to read!

  7. I read the very first lines and thought of the movie “You’ve Got Mail”. Loved it (and the bookshopper owner played by Meg Ryan).

  8. I really enjoyed your thoughtful and considered review of this book. You’ve made me think about it anew. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Emmi either, and even more so in the sequel to this book. Thank you very much for the kind link up to my review.

  9. Pingback: Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer | Iris on Books

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