The Love Letter

( 6 )

Overview

Smart, independent, and sexy, Helen MacFarquhar owns a tiny bookstore in an idyllic seaside town, where her life is exactly as she planned it, comfortable and full. But then an anonymous love letter arrives in her mail one steamy summer morning. Written by an unknown lover to a mysterious beloved, the letter becomes Helen's obsession. "How do you fall in love?" the letter asks. To her dismay, Helen finds out. Johnny is the college student who works in Helen's store, a boy with all the irresistible modesty and ...
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The Love Letter

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Overview

Smart, independent, and sexy, Helen MacFarquhar owns a tiny bookstore in an idyllic seaside town, where her life is exactly as she planned it, comfortable and full. But then an anonymous love letter arrives in her mail one steamy summer morning. Written by an unknown lover to a mysterious beloved, the letter becomes Helen's obsession. "How do you fall in love?" the letter asks. To her dismay, Helen finds out. Johnny is the college student who works in Helen's store, a boy with all the irresistible modesty and arrogance of youth. Helen knows she is too old for him, and too wise, but the letter's ardor is overpowering, and Helen is swept up in a fiercely tender love affair.

The author of Rameau's Niece presents a romantic masterpiece in the tradition of The Bridges of Madison County. Ripe with uncompromising wit and fierce tenderness, this is the story of Helen MacFarquhar, a smart, independent, divorced owner of a bookstore who is happily raising her 11-year-old daughter — and having an affair with a 20-year-old college student.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Overtones of a postmodern fairy tale give added resonance to what is otherwise a very contemporary-and totally enchanting- love story. One summer morning in her 41st year, Helen MacFarquhar, the divorced owner of an audaciously pink bookstore in an exclusive Connecticut shore town, finds a mysterious letter in her mail. Addressed "Dear Goat,'' and signed "As Ever, Ram,'' it is a love letter of such intensity and passion that she becomes obsessed by its urgently suggestive message. The effect of that letter on Helen's orderly life is the burden of this comedy of manners, which in Schine's capable hands also becomes a witty send-up of cultural hypocrisies and modern relationships. The letter is next read by Johnny Howell, 20-year-old college student and part-time help at Helen's store. Magic strikes; like some characters in Shakespeare's comedies, Johnny immediately falls in love with Helen, and, after a series of misunderstandings, they consummate what has become a mutual passion. Subterfuge is necessary, of course, especially when Helen's 11-year-old daughter returns from camp and Helen's ditsy globe-trotting mother and grande-dame grandmother also decide to spend some weeks in Helen's large old house. Schine's prose is as light and delicate as gossamer and as earthy as colloquial slang and sex. A natural with epigrams and humorous aperus, Schine has an antic imagination that conjurs arresting images. Her fine satiric eye and sophisticated intelligence, displayed previously in Rameau's Niece, To the Birdhouse and Alice in Bed are here equally evident. Helen is a captivating, complex character: demanding, flirtatious, whimsical, capricious, bossy, independent-and suddenly vulnerable. The twist ending is nicely foreshadowed and quite delicious in its implications. Like the love letter of the title, this book enchants and seduces.
Library Journal
Why is Helen so unnerved and preoccupied by finding an unsigned love letter with her mail? That is the readers' question as we follow Helen's adventures with her bookshop employees and her family in this new novel by the author of Rameau's Niece LJ 3/15/93. Schine's latest novel keeps us guessing until it all comes together at the end. A resort community setting, wry characters, and an off beat plot combine elegantly into a charming novel that will appeal to a wide audience. Recommended for most libraries.
— Patricia C. Heaney, Nassau Community College Library, Garden City, N.Y.
Donna Seaman
Few forms of praise are higher than declaring a writer brilliantly funny, and Schine is: she's a stitch. Her last novel, Rameau's Niece (1993), wreathed readers in smiles; her newest is better than a day at the beach. Helen, her marvelous heroine, is a bookstore owner, a divorced mom just into her forties, and a consummate flirt. Helen, sexy and commanding, can sell any book to anyone and elicits admiration, loyalty, and desire from customers and staff alike. It's summer in her hot little coastal New York town; her daughter's at camp; and her imperially self-absorbed and ever stylish mother and grandmother are planning an extended visit. A seductive control freak adept at keeping people both firmly attached and at the optimum distance, Helen is more dismayed than flattered when she receives an anonymous love letter. That's the first chink in her armor. Johnny, her very good-looking 20-year-old summer employee, is the second. As Schine dissects their passionate and utterly illogical affair, she animates a cast of deliciously piquant characters who think and say the sort of things we are taught not to, and we bask in their audacity.
From the Publisher
"[Helen's story] is a familiar one. . . . but Ms. Schine renders it in these pages with such deftness and good-natured humor that the reader can't help but be enchanted."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Rarely less than sublime . . . A sophisticated and witty valentine of a novel."—People

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451198679
  • Publisher: Signet
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 362
  • Product dimensions: 4.38 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathleen Schine

Cathleen Schine is the bestselling author of Rameau's Niece and The Evolution of Jane. Her new novel, The New Yorkers, will be published by FSG in May 2007. She lives in New York City.

Biography

Cathleen Schine is the author of the internationally best-selling novels The Love Letter (1995), which was made into a movie starring Kate Capshaw, and Rameau's Niece (1993), which was also made into a movie (The Misadventures of Margaret), starring Parker Posey. Schine's other novels are Alice in Bed (1983), To the Bird House (1990), The Evolution of Jane (1999), She Is Me (2003), The New Yorkers (2006), and The Three Weissmanns of Westport (2010). In addition to novels she has written articles for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She grew up in Westport, Ct.

Author biography courtesy of author's website.

Good To Know

In our interview, Schine revealed some fascinating facts about herself:

"I tried to be a medieval historian, but I have no memory for facts, dates, or abstract ideas, so that was a bust. When I came back to New York, I tried to be a buyer at Bloomingdale's because I loved shopping. I had an interview, but they never called me back. I really had no choice. I had to be a writer. I could not get a job. After doing some bits of freelance journalism at The Village Voice, I did finally get a job as a copy editor at Newsweek. My grammar was good, but I can't spell, so it was a challenge. My boss was very nice and indulgent, though, and I wrote Alice in Bed on scraps of paper during slow hours. I didn't have a regular job again until I wrote The Love Letter."

"The Love Letter was about a bookseller, so I worked in a bookstore in an attempt to understand the art of bookselling. I discovered that selling books is an interdisciplinary activity, the disciplines being: literary critic, psychologist, and stevedore. I was fired immediately for total incompetence and chaos and told to sit in the back and observe, no talking, no touching."

"I dislike humidity and vomit, I guess. My interests and hobbies are too expensive or too physically taxing to actually pursue. I like to take naps. I go shopping to unwind. I love to shop. Even if it's for Q-Tips or Post-Its."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York, and Venice, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bridgeport, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1976
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A good read

    I liked this book, though not quite as much as The Evolution of Jane, which I think is easier to digest. My judgement might be biased, though, since I saw the movie before reading the book and found the movie to be superior in many ways. Still, an enjoyable read. Cathleen Schine is a wonderful writer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2010

    Loved It

    Perfect love story of a smart woman who finally finds love.
    A mysterious letter makes the plot even more interesting.
    Shows that love can be found in people who seem so dissimilar from
    each other.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2006

    UGH!

    I tried to like this book, but by page 61, I had to put it down. The main charachter, Helen, is a self-absorbed tramp and an unfit mother. She kisses people on a whim. She flirts and sleeps with anyone in town. She talks about how much she misses her daughter, who is away at camp, but I don't believe that she thinks of anyone by herself. She freely drops the F-bomb casually, as if that were speech becoming of a lady...which she is not. The plot is absurd. That she could be as callous and crude as she is represented to be and as popular as she is also purported to be, is impossible. This character is lewd, obstinant, selfish, childish, and impetuous. Do not pick this book up unless you admire loose women who are horrible mothers. Disgusting, and not a very funny book, either.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2001

    disappointing

    As a mother of a 'young man' I was very disappointed that Helen, who I at first liked, had no self-control or conscience. I suppose this 'me only' attitude is modern and I'm not.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2000

    Truly entertaining

    I do not go in for romantic drivel, so I began to read this book with a skeptical eye. By page 25, I was captivated. I loved the main character Helen, with her tough/vulnerable demeanor. The sub-plot lines were enough to keep my interest piqued throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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