Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments is completely, utterly ridiculous. I loved it away.
Attachments also happens to be the first Rowell novel I genuinely, wholeheartedly love. I’ve read Fan Girl, Eleanor & Park and Carry On. After a pretty rocky start, I ended up liking Carry On well enough. On the other hand, I found both Eleanor & Park and Fan Girl completely underwhelming.
Attachments, though? I love, love love it!
I’ve seen many folks make the argument that the novel’s premise is basically creepy and unrealistic. And they’re completely right!
The plot centers around a guy (Lincoln) falling in love with a woman he’s never met (Beth) via snooping through her work emails to and from a friend. Of course this is creepy. It’s slightly less creepy because monitoring emails is his job, but still. It’s creep-city.
It’s also, honestly, exactly the sort of screwy, nonsensical plot that lives in the romantic comedies of the 90s and early 2000s. While I don’t seem like it, I adore a good rom-com and one of my truest film related despairs is that there hasn’t been a truly wonderful romantic comedy in years (no “Love Actually” does not count, people.) I also love a good screwball comedy – heck, if computers were a thing in the 30s, I could see this sort of ridiculousness going on in a Katherine Hepburn-Cary Grant movie. You cannot tell me that the plot of “Bringing Up Baby” or “Holiday” make any more sense than this book does. In “Bringing Up Baby” Katherine Hepburn’s scatterbrained socialite randomly meets Cary Grant’s paleontologist on a golf course, convinces him to help her take a leopard named Baby to her home from Connecticut, becomes enamored with him, tries to keep him from leaving the house to prevent his getting married and they eventually end up in jail. I have not even described half of the crazy of that beautiful film. You can’t tell me that this plot makes any more sense than Attachments. You can’t because it doesn’t. But “Bringing Up Baby”, as well as “My Man Godfrey”, “Holiday”, “Woman of the Year”, “His Girl Friday” and all those other wonderful, insane, screwy screwball comedies work because they lean into the crazy.
Attachments leans wholeheartedly into the crazy and that’s exactly what it should do. Lincoln is your classic sad-sack and through her emails, Beth comes off as flighty and passionate. Yes, it’s more than a little bit annoying that Lincoln’s essentially still stuck on this girl who broke his heart nine years before and you do roll your eyes a bit at the fact that he’s allowed a teenage heartbreak to upend his life.
However, this is also understandable – throughout the vast majority of the novel, Lincoln is the type of person whom life just sort of happens to rather than the sort who actively seeks things out. I can relate to that (which kind of bums me out a bit, but I don’t feel particularly inclined to change that so yeah….). During the novel, Lincoln displays little real agency of his own so when he finally does, it kind of feels like a “pump the fist” moment
What I love best about Attachments is the friendship between Beth and her email co-conspirator Jennifer! Here, we have a very nice, very sweet female friendship devoid of jealousy and envy. Sometimes, it feels like the media doesn’t give us that enough – female friendships are often depicted as fraught, with the women backstabbing each other all other the place. Rowell doesn’t fall into that cultural morass. Instead Beth and Jennifer genuinely care for each other and want happiness for one another. They will read each other the riot act when necessary and tell each other the truth, but it’s not nasty or rude ever. It’s always based on their genuine love for one another.
I actually, absolutely enjoyed and loved Attachments and that completely defied the expectations I had when starting this book. It was silly and refreshing and just all around fun! No, Attachments isn’t high literature. And it wasn’t trying to be. Rowell wasn’t attempting to craft War & Peace here but Attachments is still a good read. And I love the heck out of it.
Note – this review also appears, in slightly different form, on my Goodreads profile