From the blurb:
‘Write to me, Emmi. Writing is like kissing, but without lips. Writing is kissing with the mind.’ It begins by chance: Leo receives emails in error from an unknown woman called Emmi. Being polite he replies, and Emmi writes back. A few brief exchanges are all it takes to spark a mutual interest in each other, and soon Emmi and Leo are sharing their innermost secrets and longings. The erotic tension simmers, and it seems only a matter of time before they will meet in person. But they keep putting off the moment – the prospect both excites and unsettles them. And after all, Emmi is happily married. Will their feelings for each other survive the test of a real-life encounter? And if so, what then? Love Virtually is a funny, fast-paced and utterly absorbing novel, with plenty of twists and turns, about a love affair conducted entirely by email.
Love Virtually is a book originally written in German. After becoming a big success in that language it was then translated into English by translators Katharina Bielenberg and Jamie Bulloch.
What is original about this book, and its love story, is the format in which it is written – an email exchange between two people, a man and a women, who have never met before. A thoroughly modern twist to an age-old custom; indeed some of the best period love stories have been centred on the romance of letter writing or diaries – the epistolary novel. That simple act of writing down your innermost thoughts – things you could never say whilst looking into your lover’s eyes, which are given life by the simplicity of ink and paper and even greater power when you then give that note to your lover to read.
Yet I have to confess that despite my interest in the modern love letter email, I almost did not read this book. The idea of one of the main protagonists being happily married put me off somewhat. But without wishing to spoil the plot, suffice it to say that I am glad now that I did read the book, and I am definitely going to be reading the sequel very soon too.
Although this book is set in the virtual world of the email cyberspace, the protagonists – Leo and Emmi – both live in Austria. They ‘meet’ quite by accident, when Emmi mistypes an email address whilst trying to cancel a magazine subscription. Easily done! Most such mishaps don’t lead to friendship or even love, but soon such feelings are stirred for Leo and Emmi:
When an e-mail from you comes in, my heart begins to pound. I feel the same today as I did yesterday and seven months ago.
For me writing to you and reading your e-mails is like non-family time. It’s a little island outside my daily experience, a tiny island which I’d much rather inhabit with you alone, if you don’t mind.
The conversation between Leo and Emmi is relaxed and easy to read, even in the sometimes brief and interrupted email format – they flirt, they get angry, they tell jokes and they discuss their personal desires. Just like a true email exchange, you have to wait until after real-time events to find out what happened. You feel like you are snooping in on someone else’s private email conversation – because you are – and the experience is curiously addictive.
Leo and Emmi soon begin to question where this ‘virtual’ relationship is going and what each of them means to the other. Should they meet or would that be the beginning of the end for their relationship?
All in all, I am so glad that my curiosity over the writing style won over my concerns about the characters in this book. The writing was fun to read and exceedingly realistic as an email conversation, yet it was still descriptive and powerful when it needed to be. It is a real-page turner: I found myself so keen to know how the story would end, and I certainly did not expect the cliff-hanger ending that came.
If, like me, you enjoy listening to afternoon plays on the radio then you will be pleased to know that this book was adapted for BBC Radio Four, and read by David Tennant and Emilia Fox. You can get the MP3 of this here: http://tinyurl.com/6nua5go. Now that I have read the book, I will certainly be listening to this very soon.
Love Virtually is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.