An addictive, quick read

2012-10-03 00:00


love virtually

Daniel Glattauer



TOLD exclusively in the e-mail format, love virtually tells the story of a love affair that develops when Emmi Rothner meets Leo Leike completely by chance online. She has decided to cancel a magazine subscription, but ends up e-mailing Leo by mistake.

At first a fairly formal e-mail conversation is struck up, but soon a flirtatious frisson begins to emerge. They have never met, but both are entranced by the other. Emmi is married to the perfect man, and has children to care for. Leo is recovering from the emotionally draining end of a long-term relationship.

They begin to rely on the e-mails they get to spark up their lives and get through otherwise arduous or monotonous days. They confide in each other, make each other laugh and give each other advice. They meet by e-mail late at night and drink wine at their separate keyboards together. As they begin to communicate a few times a day and their online relationship develops, things begin to get rather steamy too.

What keeps the reader’s attention most of all is the promise of a meeting. Or would a meeting be the end of it all? They do not swop photos, so they have no idea of the other’s physical appearance. While the thrill of reading about them finally clapping eyes on each other would be exciting, what if they hated each other’s looks? What if they found traits in each other that are just downright annoying and could lead to the equivalent of a cold shower in their amourous yearnings for each other? Could they be the antithesis of the idealistic image they have built up of each other?

While the book details their flirtation, this aspect of the story feels like it is flirting with the reader at the same time — teasing and keeping the tension at exactly the right level. Of course, the format of e-mail means that while they spill their guts to each other, one is not entirely sure how honest the whole thing is. They allow the other a window to a world that would make them be pictured favourably in each other’s imaginations. It would be romantic suicide to do otherwise.

But we do get to glimpse an aspect of each’s personalities. Emmi, in a firm relationship, is extremely jealous of Leo’s activities outside their secret world. Leo is a language psychologist, so he is analysing everything she writes and how she writes it. (Is he keeping this conversation going to form part of some academic study? That thought comes into the reading analysis too.)

I really enjoyed the book. It’s an addictive, quick read.


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