Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel Attachments is set in the offices of a newspaper in 1999, where employees have only just been granted access to email. In those days, companies would hire IT staff to patrol employees’ use of email and prevent any “unauthorised” usage. And so, we meet Lincoln, Internet Security watchman, given the task of prowling through people’s Sent Mail every night, on the lookout for inappropriate personal use of company email. But when the WebShark program highlights a personal email conversation between Beth and Jennifer, instead of sending the girls a warning, Lincoln gets intrigued. Soon, rather than preventing them, he is looking forward to reading their messages.
He gets so caught up in their conversation that he forgets that he doesn’t actually know them, and through their messages he finds out intimate details of their personal lives. But one day the girls’ emails stop coming into the WebShark folder for Lincoln to read, and he knows something is up. How can he approach them to find out more? He is lost without his – morally questionable – window into their lives. To complicate matters, he thinks he’s fallen for one of the girls, but he knows she has a boyfriend, and he knows she is checking out someone at the office as well. What chance does he have?
With today’s world of Facebook, instant messaging, twitter and of course online dating, all that seems so, well, 1999. But really, what did people do before everything was online all at once and all in your pocket? I think Attachments shows how easy it is to lose a real sense of attachment, when we seem to know people online but really, we don’t have that connection in person. People are people, and this book will remind you that all that online connectedness still may not make up for those face-to-face moments with real faces.
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