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Love Letter

Love Letter

3.6 8
by Cathleen Schine

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An anonymous love letter arrives in Helen MacFarquhar's mail one summer morning. Written by an unknown lover to a mysterious beloved, the letter becomes Helen's obsession. The proprietress of a bookstore in a quaint New England town, Helen is content with her calm, controlled world, running her life like a well-oiled machine. A merry divorcee with a bright, lovable 11


An anonymous love letter arrives in Helen MacFarquhar's mail one summer morning. Written by an unknown lover to a mysterious beloved, the letter becomes Helen's obsession. The proprietress of a bookstore in a quaint New England town, Helen is content with her calm, controlled world, running her life like a well-oiled machine. A merry divorcee with a bright, lovable 11-year-old daughter, she has settled happily into a sensible daily routine of selling books, motherhood, and charming the local townsfolk. "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 bookstore, 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 an unlikely, but fiercely tender love affair. The Love Letter was a national bestseller appearing on Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, and Village Voice Literary Supplement lists. Published in highly successful hardcover and mass market editions, this classic 1995 novel is being converted to trade paperback to reach the true audience for literary fiction. Plume edition of Cathleen Schine's previous novel, Rameau's Niece, continues to sell over 400 copies per month. Schine is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Mirabella, and other publications.

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.
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

Product Details

Cengage Gale
Publication date:

Meet the Author

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

Brief Biography

New York, New York, and Venice, California
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Bridgeport, Connecticut
B.A., Barnard College, 1976

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Love Letter 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
back then . . sigh . right there w/ the ol Leif Schrieber flic, about friendship in twixt of disfunctional boy/girlfriend/ships . . I look forward to reading Schine's book. Hope this review was functional / and bearable . . Thank you
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
Heard about the book because of the movie, which was okay but good in parts. The setting and the bookstore especially. Oh and Ellen of course. So while browsing the shelves (isn't it always), I saw the book and the cover is nice, what with the beach in the background. Gives off a cozy vibe in a way. Anyway, you have a bunch of characters, a mysterious love letter and a bookstore. But mostly it revolves around two characters, bookstore employees Helen and Johnny and a love affair begins. All because of a letter one thinks wrote to the other. Well sort of. I liked the writing at times, some of the descriptions were poetic in a way and set the setting well. I wouldn't have minded reading about the everyday lives of the employees at the bookstore in a small quiet town. It has a slow pace, and so took my time reading it. It was a cute if at times weird story.
theshippingnews More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.