this review / commentary will contain spoilers, because I honestly just want to discuss this book with someone. for all the spoiler-free reviews, Google will suffice.
it is one of those books that you really shouldn’t judge by its title (or perhaps it’s just me doing the judging) because “love virtually” looks and sounds like a chic-lit novel when in fact, it just isn’t (the German title is, “Gut gegen Nordwind,” and I’m not sure if the English translation was appropriate).
i’ve read some other novels that did the email-correspondence format (Meg Cabot comes to mind), but this was done splendidly, maybe sometimes poetically, that I know I would eventually come back to reread this story.
I read this without knowing how the book ends, unlike how I used to read a lot of books before. I do this normally because I want to know if I’m getting a sad story or not. this story was heartbreaking, with internal and emotional conflicts that painted so many gray areas that even if I wasn’t predicting any happy or sad ending, I was feeling so hopeful that these two characters would just find each other and that I, the reader, could finally feel happiness for them.
there were a number of things I loved about this book. both characters are realistically flawed, and I could feel the development of their relationship just by reading their emails to each other (strangers spilling enough about themselves to find the other a friend, and then the petty quarrels and jealousies that you would find in any normal, physically intimate couple, their longing for the constant [virtual] presence of the other). and then the way Leo writes. yes, Leo, romantic and heartbroken, but so honest with his feelings:
You’re so harsh, Emmi. Don’t be so harsh. I don’t want coffee. I want Emmi. Come over to my place. Let’s drink another small glass of wine. We could wear blindfolds, like in the film. I don’t know what the film’s called, I’ll have to think about it. I’d really love to kiss you. I don’t care what you look like. I’ve fallen in love with your words. Write what you want. Feel free to be harsh. I love it all. You see, deep down you’re not harsh really. But you force yourself to be, you just want to make out you’re stronger than you are. Marlene doesn’t touch booze. Marlene is a very sober woman, yet fascinating. That’s what everybody who knows her says. She got together with a pilot, from Spain. But it’s all over now. She says there’s only one man for her and that’s me. That’s a lie, you know. She can’t have me any more. It really hurts when you split up. I don’t want to split up from Marlene again. My mother liked her, but she’s dead, she was unlucky. It’s very different from how I thought it would be. Part of me has died with her. I’ve only been aware of it since that part of me died. My mother wasn’t that interested in me, just in my little sister. And my father emigrated to Canada and took my older brother with him. I fell somewhere in-between. I was ignored. I was a quiet child. I can show you photos. Do you want to see photos? I was always Buster Keaton at carnival time. I like silent, sad, funny heroes who can pull faces. Come over, let’s drink another glass to us and look through carnival photos. Shame you’re married. No, it’s a good thing you’re married. Would you cheat on your husband, Emmi? Don’t do it. It hurts so terribly to be cheated on. I’m already a little drunk, but my head’s still clear. Marlene cheated on me once. I mean, once that I know of. You take one look at Marlene and you know that she’ll cheat on you. I’m putting that all behind me now, Emmi. Here’s a kiss. And another kiss. And another kiss. And another. Whoever you are. I long to be close. I don’t want to think about my mother. I don’t want to think about Marlene. I want to kiss Emmi. Excuse me, I’m a bit drunk. It’s all behind me now. I’m off to bed. Goodnight kiss. Shame you’re married. I think we’d be good together. Emmi. Emmi. Emmi. I like writing Emmi. Left middle finger once, right index finger twice and, two rows above that, right middle finger. E M M I. I could write Emmi a thousand times. Writing Emmi is kissing Emmi. Let’s go to bed, Emmi.
the novel ended so abruptly, the cliff-hanger felt so sad and final, as if they were still in the middle of things rather than the end. now all I want to know is what happens to them. that maybe there was a way that they saw each other eventually, or maybe even ended up together in some far future, because they seem to get along so well in writing. however, there will always be the fact that Emmi is married, and even if she does not have children of her own with her husband, a consequence of a happy ending for them would be a tragic end for her marriage.
but then again, even if they had met each other, how would I know if the relationship worked outside of the internet? but still, both of them found something missing within each other and it seemed like they ought to have that chance to be together.
but of course I will never know because of how the novel actually ended. apparently there is a sequel: every seventh wave. i can’t get hold of it yet because the ebook is exclusive to amazon’s UK site and all the other sites only sell in the US. the reviews make me rethink my desire to know what happens as the author penned it, or keep to my imagination.
I’m not going to lie: cheating is wrong. my stand about this matter is: if somebody feels differently about his or her significant other, it is important to be honest and break things off first before starting a new relationship. with this I can carry no judgment to the person who had called it off.
but then again: what is cheating?
would a correspondence without physical intimacy be considered cheating? but with emotional ties, whether or not you have a face or voice attached to a being, it IS possible to fall in love, to grow to love another person, to want them, to lust for them. that moment you have started to care for another, would you consider that cheating?
now to the gray area: considering I am against cheating, is it bad that I wanted Leo and Emmi to have a chance to be together? to actually meet so they would tell me and that I would know? that they don’t have to have sex so it wouldn’t be cheating, but that they could see each other and maybe fall in love more completely than they already have? and that, maybe, ultimately, they will be happy?
and for my favorite quote:
Write to me, Emmi. Writing is like kissing, but without lips. Writing is kissing with the mind. Emmi, Emmi, Emmi.
to know that they can never write to each other again, unless Leo does contact her himself (but I think that he never will), makes the end all the more heartbreaking.