It’s the late 90’s, and office email is still enough of a novelty for the higher ups at a local newspaper not to get it in the slightest. Which is how our shy protagonist, Lincoln, finds himself working in an IT job that basically consists of reading flagged emails (I am a very nosy person and this basically sounds like my dream job). But while Lincoln is supposed to be monitoring and warning those in breach of company policy, he finds himself reluctant to do the warning part when it comes to Beth and Jennifer – two friends who spend large parts of their working days emailing one another, supporting each other through relationship woes, family dramas, and personal crises, and gossiping about colleagues.
Having spent the best part of a decade trying to get over his first love, and still living with his over-involved mother (who comes from the same mould as Maxine Fortenberry, who’s currently making me want to shake her throughout a True Blood rewatch), Lincoln isn’t great at meeting new people. But while he’s fallen slowly in love with Beth through monitoring her emails, getting to meet her without her thinking he’s a creepy stalker is going to be super hard.
Somehow Rainbow Rowell has taken a premise that should be nothing but creepy – a man you don’t know has been reading your personal emails and become obsessed with you – and managed to make it light and charming instead. A large part of this is through Beth rather than Lincoln himself – whilst ‘nice’ he’s actually a pretty dull person, but Beth has personality in spades – something that shines through despite only knowing her through her emails – and I enjoyed the depiction of female friendship even more than I did the love story.
Having read and loved Eleanor and Park years ago, I’ve no idea what’s taken me so long to get around to reading more Rowell. I certainly won’t leave it so long again.