Every Seventh Wave – Daniel Glattauer
Translated from the German Alle sieben Wellen by Katharina Bielenberg and Jamie Bulloch
MacLehose Press, February 2013
Review copy provided by publisher
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *
Every Seventh Wave continues where Love Virtually ends. [Thus, spoilers for Love Virtually from here on out]. Emmi and Bernhard are still married. From time to time, Emmi tries to email Leo, but initially all she receives is the auto reply message Leo set when he moved to Boston. However, when Leo returns from his stay in Boston, Emmi and Leo renew their email contact. And soon that contact starts to slip over the border between friendship and more again, just as Leo has his girlfriend from Boston, Pamela, move in with him.
First, let me briefly state that I like the title for this sequel much better than the English one for the first book. I agree with Caroline that the German title Gut gegen Nordwind captures much more of the book than the rather straightforward Love Virtually. The German title is integrated with the story as the idea of writing while the north wind keeps Emmi up at night is a theme in the novel. Similarly, the idea behind the title for this sequel is part of the story. It has to do with an anecdote and a pretty heavy hint of Emmi towards Leo. However, I won’t reveal more as that might be considered spoiling the book.
As with any sequel, with Every Seventh Wave comes the question if a second book was necessary. I am undecided on the answer. That is to say, no, I do not think it was necessary. Love Virtually is very much a self-contained novel with an ending that works and need not have been revisited. Sure, the ending was perhaps more bitter than sweet, but it certainly fit the story. I was not sure if I wanted to witness that ending being revisited, or revised, in a sequel. And yet, having enjoyed Love Virtually, it was no torturous thought to read this second novel.
Every Seventh Wave is just as compelling as Love Virtually. It has the same witty email exchanges, the same serious undertones (perhaps even more serious at times). Yes, some of the lapses in the story come from the same thing (the “should we meet?” cycle is revisited, albeit in different ways, and sometimes made me sigh), but overall it is a very convincing read. One that you may finish on the couch on a Saturday night. Or during the week because you just want to visit someone else’s life. Love Virtually and Every Seventh Wave for me were escapist reads, but of the most enjoyable sort. For it is not escapism clouded in pink. Instead, there is a realism to it that makes it all the more compelling.
Every Seventh Wave highlighted some of the excellence of Love Virtually for me. Even things that I had missed in my first contemplation of the book. At the same time, it addresses some of the problems I had with the first installment, or perhaps I should say that it made visible what I couldn’t quite articulate about it in my previous post. Every Seventh Wave managed to sell Emmi to me in a way that Love Virtually never did. Emmi mentions how the ending of the first book, the understanding between Leo and Bernhard, makes her feel cheap, as if she’s a commodity to be traded between men. Yes, I found myself thinking, that’s exactly what made me a little squeamish about it. She also recaptures some of her strength by allowing herself to contemplate her own marriage, and its pros and cons, in a more open and honest way than she did in Love Virtually. (at the same time, it made me wonder if it did not undercut the allowance for diversity of human relationships, which was one of the strengths of the first book?)
I enjoyed Every Seventh Wave, even if I am still not quite convinced that it needed to be written. If you enjoyed Love Virtually, it almost follows that you will enjoy this sequel. In some ways, Every Seventh Wave managed to bring more depth and layers to a story that wasn’t wholly uncomplicated from the outset. There is, I think, a darker undertone to this one that I definitely appreciated. Almost inevitably, there were also episodes that made the story more convenient than it was in the first book. That might not tell you very much, but I am trying not to spoil the manner in which the lives of Leo and Emmi (and Bernhard and Pamela) develop. Let me just say that Every Seventh Wave had its weaknesses, just like I felt Love Virtually had them although perhaps in different places. But despite those minor points of criticism, I felt myself rooting for Emmi and Leo. I felt love, and frustration, and lust, and disappointment along with them. Daniel Glattauer managed to convince me, again.