Attachments is set in 1999 when the internet, and particularly email, was still fairly new. A newspaper called The Courier employs Lincoln, a shy IT guy, to monitor their employees email and check that it isn’t being abused. He finds the emails of two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, repeatedly flagged up and starts to read their exchanges regularly. He finds himself beginning to feel an affinity towards two people he’s never met, and even starts to fall for one of them…
I think the entire reason I picked this up to buy in the shop was that I thought the concept was interesting. I was immediately determined to know how it panned out, with a person employed to violate people’s privacy falling for someone who not only doesn’t even know he exists, but would be angry to find out what they had done if they did. And I wasn’t disappointed with the book.
The characters are instantly likable, with Lincoln, the shy, unlucky in love protagonist immediately gaining sympathy for his current situation; living with his interfering mother, and dealing with his previous heartbreak. In fact, in most other books the beautiful, quirky girl who broke his heart (Sam) would have been the heroine or primary love interest (she actually reminded me a little of Alaska from John Green’s Looking for Alaska). However, here she takes a backseat to a more introverted character, and I liked this aspect of the book, Lincoln being far more relatable than most protagonists in this sort of novel.
Lincoln’s actual love interest is equally unconventional, her physical appearance being kept a secret from both the reader and Lincoln until almost the end of the novel. Instead it is Beth’s personality that stands out, and the emails between her and Jennifer are entertaining, witty, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The concept of telling part of the story (eg. Beth’s rocky relationship with her current boyfriend, Jennifer’s marriage and pregnancy) through emails makes the novel in places a thoroughly modern epistolary novel, and I found myself looking forward to these sections in the same way Lincoln looks forward to coming into work and reading them. In this manner you can easily relate to Lincoln, as you are for the most part as in the dark as he is, and discover more about Beth as he does.
One problem I had with the novel was that the plot at times seemed a little meandering and I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. The email sections break this up nicely, as there is plenty of drama going on in Beth and Jennifer’s lives to compensate from the often stagnant life of Lincoln, but I can’t help thinking that an injection of more life into Lincoln’s sections would have helped. In fact, if I were asked to write a bullet pointed list of everything that happened in the novel to Lincoln, I would find it hard to remember everything, as it seemed as though little was happening at points except his mother/sister/friends bitching at him about getting a girlfriend and him pining to read more of Jennifer and Beth’s hilarious email exchanges. This is often one of the dangers of a split-view novel: readers will inevitably prefer one section over another, and this was the case for me in Attachments. Although I liked Lincoln and was rooting for him, I often found myself eager to get to the next email section.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found interesting the moral conundrum Lincoln faces at the end. Can he possibly attempt to initiate a relationship with someone whose privacy he has repeatedly violated? And if he does, should he tell her and how? Despite the occasional slow moment, it was definitely worth a read, although in terms of what else I’ve read by Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor and Park and Fangirl), I think I preferred Fangirl, as the plot was a little faster paced, whilst the characters were equally likable.