Performed by David Tennant and Emilia Fox as BBC Radio 4 adaptation earlier this year, Love Virtually is Daniel Glattauer’s refreshing narrative of a love affair conducted via email.
Reviewed by Jade Craddock
Told exclusively in the medium, this is a love story for the internet age. Trying to cancel her magazine subscription, a simple error in the email address unwittingly leads Emmi’s email into the inbox of Leo and thus begins a correspondence between two strangers. Beginning as polite teasing and witty rejoinders, Emmi and Leo’s correspondence soon develops into an addictive, daily exchange. Curious to know what the other looks like they set up a meeting in a busy cafe, with the caveat that they are not going to actually meet but just see whether they can recognise each other without any prior knowledge on the basis of their communications.
Thus begins a new level of intrigue, as the non-meeting sparks an even greater connection. The emails get more intense and personal as the two come to depend on the comfort of one another’s communication and the thrill of their 'other world'. Fluctuating between the desire to stop the speeding train that is their relationship and the desire to see where it takes them, Emmi and Leo struggle to define the parameters of their relationship, not least because of Emmi’s marriage. After a series of delayed meetings and an ever-intensifying bond, a dramatic change of events finally puts their meeting in motion, but they both worry whether they will live up to the other’s expectations and how their meeting will affect their relationship. In a dramatic finale Glattauer leaves the reader waiting, like Emmi and Leo, for the next email, nicely setting up his forthcoming sequel Every Seventh Wave.
Love Virtually is an innovative and interesting novel. The emails make for a fast-paced read and their contents – and specifically their omissions – place the reader firmly in the virtual world created by Leo and Emmi, left to ponder with the protagonists over the realities of these characters’ lives.