Book Review: Attachments

AttachmentsTitle: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 325
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publication Date: 1st April 2011
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Rating: ★★★★

"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you..."

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now—reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers—not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained—and captivated—by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say...?

After recently finishing Eleanor and Park, I was so excited to read another Rainbow Rowell book, but this time, one aimed at adults.  The book follows the shy and lonely Lincoln, whose job it is to monitor emails at a newspaper office.  Over the months, he gets drawn in to the lives of two women at the office – Beth and Jennifer – and their personal exchanges to one another by email, despite the fact he has never met them.

I felt the story started slowly, but I quickly found Lincoln exceedingly likeable – he was awkward, enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons and was kind to his Mum.  He was also human, struggling to get over his first love of so many years ago.  ‘Attachments’ summed it up perfectly, as the book deals with a number of complex relationships which Lincoln must grow bold enough to finally make decisions over.

Spoiler alert – continue with caution!

The Bell Curve of Attachments

And then… the ending happened.  I hope my rough diagram (put together on Paint – can you tell?) helps you to visualise the crippling disappointment of my reading experience.

I had a peek on Rainbow Rowell’s Wikipedia page, and apparently Attachments is her first book.  It is a fantastic first novel, but I can’t help but feel there is something vital that she missed out on, something she had learnt by Eleanor and Park (her second novel), and that is to not give your characters everything they want.  Lincoln made some exceptional progress throughout the story, and I initially felt really satisfied with his character development, that he was growing up, learning to let go.

I want to believe that Rowell intended for the ending to be uncomfortable for the reader.  I knew that Lincoln’s relationship with Beth wasn’t a healthy one – in my eyes, he just transferred his obsession for Sam onto Beth.  I thought the ending was a backwards step for him, after all the progress he had made, and I closed the book feeling quite unsatisfied.  So, I hope that readers weren’t meant to say, “thank goodness he got the girl, I’m so happy for him”.  I would have been happier for him to change jobs and meet someone new.  Or maybe he just learnt to be happy on his own.  Maybe he accepted Emilie after all and gave her a chance.

Due to the abruptness of the ending, and the ambiguity surrounding it, I must reluctantly award Attachments a four star rating.  It just didn’t impact me in the same way Eleanor and Park did, but was still undeniably enjoyable up until that point.  Rainbow Rowell is good at getting an emotional reaction from her readers, and I certainly felt stuff, even if not all of those feelings were good.

I would love to know how other readers interpreted the ending – please comment below with your thoughts!

Star rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

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