Two million copies sold in Germany alone. Bought by thirty-five publishers around the world, and adapted into a successful touring stage play. Love Virtually and its sequel Every Seventh Wave, by Austrian novelist Daniel Glattauer, are well on the way to becoming the next global publishing phenomenon.
Love Virtually is a thoroughly modern epistolary novel with a difference: its protagonists – Emmi Rothner and Leo Leike – communicate exclusively by e-mail. In fact, they only “meet” when Emmi mistakenly sends an e-mail to Leo’s inbox. A romance ensues that allows them to live out a shared secret life far removed from their day-to-day existences. But to what extent does it rely on fantasy and escapism, and will it survive a real-life meeting?
There have been precedents, of course. 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, written, and directed by Nora Ephron, in which Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks play two business rivals who unwittingly become online lovers. In 2005, a year before the German publication of Glattauer’s bestseller, Lucy Kellaway published Who Moved My Blackberry?, a satirical novel that charts a businessman’s rapid rise and fall through e-mails to and from his life-coach, his wife, his children, and his colleagues.
Perhaps Love Virtually‘s success lies in that fact that it is an e-mail novel that eclipses the form – within fifty or a hundred pages the structure seems to fall away and you are left with a simple love story that is as affecting and utterly compelling as any you’d care to compare it to. Like David Nicholls’ One Day or Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, it is a quirky romance that delivers and delights on every level.
From now until publication (February 3), we will be tweeting the text of Love Virtually – a few e-mails each day – from @LoveVirtually, just as an experiment to see how far we get. Will it be five pages? Will be ten? However many it is, we can guarantee you’ll be hooked by then.
We’ll be posting about Love Virtually on the blog all week.