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The Love Letter

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3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,211 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Independent, irresistible Helen MacFarquhar is the owner of a bookstore in an idyllic seaside town in New England. A happily divorced mother who enjoys a playful relationship with her customers, Helen's life is turned upside down when an anonymous letter arrives, penned by an unknown lover.
Paperback, 257 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Picador (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,511)
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Nidah (SleepDreamWrite)
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
...more
Carolyn Hill
May 13, 2011 Carolyn Hill rated it it was ok
Judging from the title, you'd think this was a genre romance novel, but with glowing reviews from the NY Times Book Review, Vogue, LA Times, and Boston Globe on the back cover, you know it's not. I picked up this book on a whim, going by said reviews, and thinking it was recent. Turns out it was published in 1995. That usually doesn't bother me - and if it's still considered good enough to be found in the local bookstore chain, much less still in publication, that's typically a good sign. It has ...more
Rosina Lippi
Feb 04, 2010 Rosina Lippi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books I meant to read years ago and finally got around to, simply because it slipped out of a pile and fell on my foot, and I took the hint.

One of the basic rules about telling stories, or at least one of the rules I agree with, is that somehow, in the course of the story, the main character has to change. Not in any particular way or direction, but the story itself has to work on the main characters in some observable way. Cathleen Schine took a main character I didn’t like
...more
Virginia
Come ci si innamora? Si casca? Si inciampa, si perde l'equilibrio e si cade sul marciapiedi, sbucciandosi un ginocchio, sbucciandosi il cuore? O è come rimanere sospesi oltre l'orlo di un precipizio, per sempre?
Sharyl
Sep 11, 2013 Sharyl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Helen MacFarquar is a 42-year-old, divorced single mother who runs a bookstore. She has this happy, settled life until she comes across a mysterious love letter, which (being a little self-absorbed) she immediately assumes is inspired and addressed to herself. Helen finds this letter so intense, that she becomes obsessed with it, and it disrupts her inner peace. The mystery of where the letter came from, and who it concerns, draws her into having an affair with a 20-year-old summer hire.

"Dear Go
...more
Megan
Jan 11, 2008 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: romance, letters
Ok, this book is perhaps a little cheesy, but it's also an entertaining read and actually has better writing than I thought it would have. The characters even mostly escaped being either stereotypes or ciphers, and their relationship developments while nothing overly exciting actually surprised me. At least seeing them bounce around each other as the letter changes hands, and reading the different ways they all take the letter them into themselves and assume it's about them or meant for them, wa ...more
Karen Powell
The summary: Helen, the single-mom boss of her own bookstore in a college town, finds a love letter of which the writer and recipient is unknown to her, but it changes her life anyway. Her thoughts turn to love and letters, and her new 20-year-old employee Johnny, who has a crush on her. Their secret affair tears at them and threatens to be exposed as their various family members come back to live with them in Pequod.[return][return]As for the writing, the first half is torture, with its repetit ...more
Bookshop
Jul 29, 2007 Bookshop rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There is nothing more satisfying than realizing that the book you have on hand is actually fun and engaging and you cannot stop reading. This is such book.

I picked this book, stylishly, in a used bookstore somewhere in Europe. I've always conjured up images of chic little me browsing smelly and musty but chic used bookstores with sunglasses chicly perched on my head picking up chic literary gems. However, upon flipping the first few pages at home, I was disappointed with this book and its excess
...more
Vickie
I just finished The Love Letter by Cathleen Schine and it was not my cup of tea! The plot revolves around Helen, a 42-year old bookstore owner, and Johnny, her 21-year-old summer employee, and a love letter that Helen finds in her pile of mail one day. The problem for me was that Helen was so obnoxious and extremely self-absorbed. She was rude to everone, including her customers, and forced her literary opinions onto everyone who walked through her doors. Personally, if I had lived in her town a ...more
Elizabeth
Jan 29, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
This is one of those books that I appreciated on an intellectual level but couldn't connect with emotionally. Cathleen Schine is an inventive and thoughtful writer, and the rich inner lives she creates for her characters far exceed the depth of a more typical romance novel. But Schine also spends SO much time in her characters' heads that the pacing suffers, and I had to really force myself to get through this. Also, while the main character is supposed to be charismatic and irresistible, I foun ...more
Judy
Nov 18, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bookworm
Feb 05, 2016 Bookworm rated it did not like it
So boring! I had recently heard about this book because it was (supposedly) a book about a bookstore. Awesome! I had never heard of this book before (and had no idea it was also made into a movie?) but I have a weakness for books about books/reading/bookstores/libraries so I thought this would be a great read.

Sadly, not so much. The book opens on Helen, the bookstore owner. She is beautiful, she is flirty, she is an independent woman after her divorce. And she's into her college-aged employee, J
...more
Anna Berry
May 19, 2013 Anna Berry rated it it was ok
This started out so great; saturated and indulgent language, a mysetrious letter, a lady on her own, I was all in. Then I reached chapter 7 and I was waiting for another letter to arrive and for the plot to get past Johnny. And then I realised it wouldn't. I felt like I'd been promised so much but was suddenly left treading water. Then it all became more of the same rather quickly. How disappointing! The ending was so anti climatic, wow, what a lazy way to finish the story.
Melissa
Mar 18, 2011 Melissa marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I really liked The Three Weissmanns of Westport by the same author, so I finally took this off my personal bookshelf. I gave it 100 pages, but I really couldn't get into it. I didn't care about the characters, I didn't sympathize with their concerns, etc. And while that isn't necessarily a requirement for me to enjoy a book, the author seemed to be trying very hard to make me understand the characters motivations. And I guess I didn't really care...
Mary Robinson
Apr 26, 2010 Mary Robinson rated it liked it
Shelves: fun, romance
It took me awhile to decide if I was going to keep reading this book because it moved so slowly, but then I got to a point where I couldn’t put it down. The main character, ornery, charming, very funny Helen, a forty-something book store owner, and the mystery of the love letter are why. This love letter arrives out of the blue and anonymously on Helen’s doorstep – and becomes the center of the story, a funny, feisty romance.
Catherine
Feb 21, 2010 Catherine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
I found this book browsing at the library. The cover was cute, and the story sounded intriguing. But, it just wasn't very good. I didn't much like the heroine, Helen. I think she was meant to be quirky, but she just came off as strange. I couldn't understand why so many of the other characters admired her. I can't really put my finger on what I didn't like about the story. I guess it simply wasn't as intriguing as it sounded.
Kate Copeseeley
Apr 04, 2008 Kate Copeseeley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a good romance
Shelves: own-it
This book is yummy! I love, love, love the intoxicating prose and the heady descriptions of illicit infatuations. It is worth reading simply for all of the bookstore scenes, but I guarantee you will never look at an orange the way again. And who knew shoelaces could be so romantic? Be prepared -the good stuff doesn't start till midway through the book. :)
Monica
Jan 05, 2008 Monica rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monica by: Abby Frucht
It's a little bit of a guilty pleasure only because it was turned into a terrible, terrible film with Kate Capshaw and Tom Selleck (myself, I would have cast Jim-from-the-Office in the role of Johnny, but he was probably a fetus when the movie was in production).

So forget the movie if you saw it and read this book for a charming contemporary love story.
Cristina
Dec 16, 2014 Cristina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mi capita sempre più spesso di incocciare in libri in cui il o la protagonista vengono definiti "straordinari" senza che poi l'autore si dedichi a descriverci, a farci vedere, insomma, l'eccezionalità del summenzionato personaggio. Una eccellenza di default.
E' il caso della protagonista di questo libro, la quarantenne e un qualcosa Helen, che pare riuscire a sedurre ogni persona le capiti a tiro con il semplice tocco delle dita, ma che a me, che quel tocco fortunatamente non l'ho ricevuto, pare
...more
Elisabetta
”Cara capra,
come ci si innamora? Si casca? Si inciampa, si perde l’equilibrio e si cade sul marciapiedi, sbucciandosi un ginocchio, sbucciandosi il cuore? Ci si schianta per terra sui sassi? O è come rimanere sospesi oltre l’orlo di un precipizio, per sempre?
So che ti amo quando ti vedo, lo so quando ho voglia di vederti. Non un muscolo si è mosso. Nessuna brezza agita le foglie. L’aria è ferma. Ho cominciato ad amarti senza fare un solo passo. Senza neanche un battito di ciglio. Non so neppure
...more
Yasmin
Jun 24, 2011 Yasmin rated it liked it
This book had a captivating start, slow middle, and a suspenseful last chapters. I was forcing myself to get through the book but I couldn't tear myself away from finding out what happens in the end. I loved all the charm each character had, how Helen had thought behind her actions thus allowing me to understand her motives, and the youth of Johnny. Emily was sweet, though not a huge character, and Lilian and Elenor (her mother and Grandmother) was dull and irrelevant till the last chapters. I r ...more
Mónica Horta
Jan 05, 2014 Mónica Horta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance
Há livros sobre os quais não há muito a dizer. Sendo que esses livros, normalmente, também não têm nada para nos dizer…

Este livro andava a “fazer-me olhinhos” há muitos anos. Na última Feira do Livro de Lisboa decidi-me (finalmente!!!) a comprá-lo. Como é óbvio, depois de tanto tempo à espera de ler a famigerada obra o balde de água fria foi grande.
Estava à espera de uma história interessante sobre Helen, a dona de uma livraria que conseguia influenciar os seus clientes a lerem aquilo que ela pr
...more
Alissa
Mar 24, 2015 Alissa rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and often funny, this took me a few days because the lead character is so annoying but in that way that means the author has written a fully dimensional character. The story is slow, but this is much more of a character and town study, and it's just very smart and astute and will stick with me for a long time.
Jenni
May 03, 2014 Jenni rated it it was ok
Goodness gracious, I have been reading this book for years! I finally had to just power through it to finish it!! It was not as good as the movie! The only other book I have ever said this about was Forrest Gump. The writing style was nice, I just couldn't get into it!
GONZA
Mar 22, 2014 GONZA rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Romanzo carino e leggero questa lettera d'amore, nasce tutto da una scoperta e tra fraintendimenti e incomprensioni si dipanano storie d'amore parallele ma differenti.
Una lettura leggera e senza impegno di cui ho apprezzato particolarmente i rimandi all'attualità e la serie di stereotipi che l'autrice tratta con un'ironia veramente molto apprezzabile e tagliente sull'omosessualità sia maschile che femminile.
La scrittrice l'avevo già letta in un altro romanzo (l'educazione di jane, mi sembra) e
...more
Travis Ward
Apr 15, 2014 Travis Ward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is one of the best novels of our time. It's not terribly long and the plot is fairly simple, but Cathleen Schine's humor and ability to play with our social norms (as well as literature and language) is absolutely delightful. I re-read this once a year and laugh every time! I really enjoy her main character, a bookshop owner (Helen) who is divorced and relishing her freedom with all sorts of men. I don't want to give away the plot, but let's just say she (very humorously) finds hers ...more
Briley
Jul 19, 2008 Briley rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marion
Jan 23, 2015 Marion rated it did not like it
In the twenty years since this book was published, I think our sensibilities have changed. The main character, a small town bookstore owner, is not a sympathetic character. A plot twist near the end of the book will offend many readers.
Eccentrika
Jul 28, 2012 Eccentrika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, comedy
Il libro ruota tutto intorno a lei: la lettera d'amore! E da una serie di aspettative ed equivoci che ne scaturiscono.
Certo, un elemento un po' scarso per alimentare 270 pagine... è forse per questo che alla lunga stufa e diventa ridondante questo ossessivo pensare al mandante di questo foglietto di carta spiegazzato dal contenuto imbarazzante. Già, perché questa famosa lettera non ha niente di particolarmente interessante al suo interno, e anzi, l'ho trovata un po' stupida. Fosse arrivata a me
...more
Joanne
Aug 11, 2015 Joanne rated it did not like it
The only reason I finished this book was because it was a Gossip Girls Book Club selection. While I can say that it generated a lot of discussion for our book club, there was very little to recommend about this book.
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Cathleen Schine is the author of The New Yorkers, The Love Letter, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.
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“Dear Goat,

How does one fall in love? Do you trip? Do you stumble, lose your balance and drop to the sidewalk, graze your knee, graze your heart? Do you crash to the stony ground? Is there a precipice, from which you float, over the edge, forever?

I know I'm in love when I see you, I know when I long to see you. Not a muscle has moved. Leaves hang unruffled by any breeze. The air is still. I have fallen in love without taking step. When did this happen? I haven't even blinked.

I'm on fire. Is that too banal for you? It's not, you know. You'll see. It's what happens. It's what matters. I'm on fire.

I no longer eat, I forget to eat. Food looks silly to me, irrelevant. If I even notice it. But I notice nothing. My thoughts are full and raging, a house full of brothers, related by blood, feuding blood feuds:

"I'm in love."
"Typically stupid choice."
"I am, though, I'm racked by love as if love were pain."
"Go ahead. Fuck up your life. It's all wrong and you know it. Wake up. Face it."
"There's only one face, it's all I see, awake or asleep."


I threw the book out the window last night. I tried to forget. You are all wrong for me, I know it, but I no longer care for my thoughts unless they're thoughts of you. When I'm close to you, in your presence, I feel your hair brush my cheek when it does not. I look away from you, sometimes. Then I look back.

When I tie my shoes, when I peel an orange, when I drive my car, when I lie down each night without you, I remain,

As ever,
Ram”
124 likes
“All these years I've had a story in my mind, the story about us that never really existed. And because of that story, I've kept you framed up on the wall in a little box of nostalgic moonlight.” 56 likes
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