Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer (Quercus)
"Write to me Emmi. Writing is like Kissing, but without lips. Writing is kissing with the mind."

It starts in an unexpected, but not completely uncommon manner.

Emmi, a happily married woman, sends a few e-mails to a subscription service with the intent of unsubscribing to a magazine.

By chance, these e-mails inadvertently somehow always manage to end up landing in Leo Leike's inbox.

And thus begins a daily exchange of conversation filled with witticisms, simmering romantic tension and the sharing of inner most longings between two people who are, in essence, virtual strangers to one another.

As with most people who meet online, the inevitable subject of meeting each other outside the virtual realm crops up. Will they meet? And if they do, what happens when the reality isn't as grand as the web-spun fantasy?

Is Emmi really prepared to risk her marriage? And what if Leo can't reconcile fantasy Emmi with real Emmi?

What happens then?

Many readers have said this, but if you're a fan of David Nicholls's work (particularly One Day, which happens to be one of my all-time favourite reads), then you will love this epistolary novel by Austrian author, Daniel Glattauer.

The entire book is written in e-mail format and is a fast-paced, witty and wonderfully relatable novel which was translated to English by Husband and wife duo Jamie Bulloch (Leo's voice) and katharina Bielenberg (Emmi).

I must confess I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but the easy, relaxed writing style (so reminiscent of what most of us would sound like on e-mail), won me over pretty quickly.  

Daniel Glattauer has a way with words and writes such fabulously snappy, clever dialogue that you can't help but wish that you were on the receiving end of any one of the e-mail responses conducted throughout the entire novel.

There's an immediate rapport between Emmi and Leo, who each, seem to try and outdo each other in the cerebrally quick-witted comeback stakes. That there's a virtual chemistry becomes apparent pretty quickly, but with that online attraction, comes a whole new set of emotional issues, jealousy, insecurities and harsh accusations which stems from the fact that the two of them haven't met face to face.  

Strangely enough, the roles seem to be reversed and Leo seems to be reluctant to meet, while Emmi, despite the fact that she's happily married (or so claims to be), is dead keen on meeting the face behind the e-mail based persona (Somehow, I've always thought that women are more reluctant to meet their online "friends").

I thought that Glattauer was pretty accurate in his portrayal of how easy it is to make assumptions when you're not face to face with someone and adeptly showcases how people become trapped in their own perception of what they think is being said as opposed to what they're reading.

He drives home the fact that reading people online is not easy feat and that what people perceive as being real, could be the opposite of what they've initially thought.

It's this that makes the characters so interesting.

Both are not without their flaws; Emmi especially tends to be abrasive and jealously possessive, while hypocritically enough, often refuses to open up about her family life. Leo, on the other hand, is often restrained and selfishly persists in holding on the image of the fantasy Emmi that he's carved in his mind.

Yet, for all that, there's an inherent likability about both of them; two lost souls, who accidentally discovers what it means to be virtual soul mates. But how that translates itself into real life and whether they actually end up meeting is something you'll have to discover for yourself.

Be prepared for a few unexpected twists and an unexpected ending that leaves room for a sequel, which I believe is already in the works.

It's a wonderfully addictive novel which can be read in one sitting, and which I believe will appeal to everyone who has ever tried and succeeded and tried and failed at the online dating game.  

You may probably end up inevitably feeling like you're invading the intensely private and intimate liaison between two illicit lovers, but don't let that stop you from reading what I consider to be one of the most cleverly written and incredibly romantic (despite the virtual settings) novels of this year so far.
 
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