The Love Letter

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9780395689967: The Love Letter

In praise of Rameau's Niece, the New York Times hailed "the sheer delight of listening to Cathleen Schine's wonderfully inventive comic voice." Schine's sparkling new comedy of manners is a sublimely sophisticated romance, a delectable confection that pairs illicit love with mystery and the joys of selling books. Helen MacFarquhar is a woman in control of her life and everyone in it - until an anonymous love letter falls into her hands one summer morning. Until that moment, smart, sexy, fortyish Helen has led a blissful existence as the proprietor of a small bookstore in a quaint seaside town outside New York. A siren of a bookseller, Helen beguiles her customers into buying the tony titles she recommends and flirts shamelessly with nearly every one of the town's eccentric residents. But Helen's self-confidence falters when the love letter arrives in her mail. "How do you fall in love?" the letter asks, and the question becomes Helen's obsession. As she tries to figure out who wrote th

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Review:

In the quaint New England town of Pequot--"an artists' colony without the artists"--a mystery unfolds in the form of a crumpled letter. Helen MacFarquhar, the divorced 42-year-old proprietor of Horatio Street Books, finds a torrid love note in a stack of mail. Creased oddly, without an accompanying envelope, addressed to "Goat" and signed "Ram," at first the letter only momentarily disrupts her routine. But Helen, usually in total control of her thoughts, can't seem to get it out of her head. Was it simply a postal error, or was it meant for her? Everyone who enters her store becomes a suspect, even her new summer employee, 20-year-old Johnny--whom she has paraded around the premises like "a turkey, perhaps, on a leash," introducing him with delighted condescension: "Look what I've got ... a college student."

Johnny is alternately fascinated and irritated by his boss, who relies on unabashed, highly skilled flirting as her fail-safe mechanism for closing a sale. We too are drawn in by Helen's seductive charm and savvy competency, so much so that we are as genuinely surprised as she is when her idle wonderings about Johnny become something more. What could this literary, lovely face that sells a thousand books see in a college boy, 22 years her junior?

Except for the duo's first embrace--precipitated by Helen's accidental hosing down of the hunky, shirtless undergrad--The Love Letter stays comfortably on this side of heaving-bosom romance novel. Humor reigns supreme here, as well as a warm nostalgia and thoughtful reflection on good old-fashioned letter writing: "Letters are so indiscreet, she thought. They're so exposed, so vulnerable, so naked--they're even worse than snapshots." Cathleen Schine's engaging fourth novel may even incite a few readers to forgo e-mail for the pleasant scrape of ink across paper. --Brangien Davis

About the Author:

Cathleen Schine is the author of five novels, Alice in Bed, To the Birdhouse, Rameau's Niece, The Love Letter, a national bestseller that was translated into twelve languages, and The Evolution of Jane. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer David Denby, and their two sons.

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Schine, Cathleen
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