Attachments is the second Rainbow Rowell book that I have read; I finished Eleanor and Park at the end of last year, and I enjoyed it enough that I wanted to check out some of her other work. I’m actually desperate to read Fangirl, having heard such good things about it, but as I can’t get my hands on it at the moment, I borrowed Attachments from the library.
Attachments is set in 1999 and tells the story of Lincoln, a young man who works through the night for a city newspaper, monitoring the emails of the newspaper’s employees. Beth and Jennifer, who work at the newspaper, take full advantage of the fact that they can sit at their desks in separate parts of the building, yet be in constant contact with one another.
The chapters of the book largely alternate between the transcripts of the emails between Beth and Jennifer that Lincoln is able to read, and a third person narrative of Lincoln’s life. The cleverest part of the story is that we are only able to see the emails that Lincoln sees – we only get to know Beth and Jennifer through the emails that happen to have a prohibited word in them. This works particularly well later in the novel when a major event occurs, but we don’t get to know about it as it happens, because Beth and Jennifer aren’t mentioning it in their emails. Lincoln has to fill in the gaps, and so do we.
For me, Attachments takes a while to warm up. Lincoln is really the only character that we have a hope of getting to know, because Beth and Jennifer are filtered through their messages to one another. Lincoln is not an unlikable character, but neither is he a particularly sympathetic character. He is evidently not happy with the way that his life has turned out, and yet he doesn’t really appear to be doing anything about it, and is very much still hung up on an ex-girlfriend who cheated on him. His character does improve as the book continues, as he begins to realise that he is the only one who can change his circumstances.
Overall, I enjoyed Attachments, mainly because I was very much taken with the format of half emails and half narrative; it is a clever way to align the reader with Lincoln, ensuring that we only ever know what he knows. But in terms of the two Rowell books that I have read so far, I would definitely say that I preferred Eleanor and Park, for the simple reason that I felt much more invested in the characters.