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The Love Letter

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,657 ratings  ·  213 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 St. Martins Press-3PL (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,657 ratings  ·  213 reviews

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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 a
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 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
Carolyn Hill
May 12, 2011 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
Melissa Stacy
I absolutely loved this sharp, witty book. Published in 1995, Cathleen Schine's adult contemporary novel examines the summer romance of a 41 (or perhaps 42?) -year-old woman named Helen who owns and operates an indie bookstore and becomes the object of affection of one of her young employees, a 20-year-old college student named Johnny.

The book is about a lot more than this romance, though I enjoyed the love story enormously. Helen and Johnny are both fascinating characters, with big interior li
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 an
Jan 23, 2012 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
Travis Neighbor Ward
I think this is a fantastic novel. 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) are absolutely delightful. I laugh every time I re-read it! 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 herself in bed with an unexpected lo ...more
Jan 05, 2008 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.
Jul 19, 2011 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.
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
Jan 11, 2008 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
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 and her books ...more
Mary Robinson
Apr 26, 2010 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.
Anna Berry
May 19, 2013 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.
Feb 19, 2010 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.
Mar 18, 2011 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...
Chiara Merlino
Feb 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A book which, I don't know how, managed to escape the Harmony collection. HORRIBLE. Every character is forced to be someone special and always do something special, which I find to be pretentious and false. it pretends to be humorous when it simply is banal. I hated it. What should have been the main point of the whole plot (the letter) is just scattered around the story.
Kate Copeseeley
Apr 04, 2008 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. :)
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Kathy by: Book Lovers calendar
A semi-sleazy love story between a mid-40s book store owner and her 20-something employee who becomes her lover. As with so many of Schine's characters, she's not especially likable. Much more interesting are her mother, who comes out in the closing pages, and her grandmother, who has traveled and moved from place to place throughout her life. The three end up back on Cape Cod in the family home, where they appear to come to understand each other better than at any time in their lives--maybe bec ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book , set in Pequot, Wisconsin. A romantic and humorous story of a bookstore owner, Helen MacFarquhar, trying to figure out who sent her a love letter.
There are several people she thinks who might be the one, but she's keeping it a secret hoping she figures it out without the whole town knowing. I also watched the movie based on the book, and it was pretty good too.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bookseller myself for 25 years, I am a sucker for books about bookstores and booksellers. And this was a great little world. But Helen is deeply unlikeable and doesn't ever develop, so I didn't find her romance believable. A terrible authorial miscalculation for a book with this title.
My Original Notes (1997):

Fair to mediocre. I was pretty bored with the plot and didn't feel any connection to the characters.

My Current Thoughts:

I haven't read any other books by Schine, but I have The Three Weissmanns of Westport on my TBR list.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A woman owns a bookstore along a seshore. She enjoys the simple way of life. Then she receives a disturbing letter. This book is much more than a simple romance. It is a good read with a cup of tea on a cold day.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Could not make myself finish this book. Too many other books I want to read to waste my time on this one.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
Didn't get very far -- the style is too precious for me. Too much trying to write; not enough writing.
Betsy Murphy
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
It was a cute story but Helen is a bitch . but I kept reading because the love letter quest who sent her this or was it by mistake ?
Krista Gray
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable quick read!
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
That was painful. I had to force myself to finish. I wouldn't say it was a horrible book, maybe just not for me. It picked up in the second half but it was not a book I looked forward to reading.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review coming soon! 😊
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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.
“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,
“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.” 79 likes
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