The Love Letter — Cathleen Schine

[asa book]0452279488[/asa] 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 much — Helen, 42, divorced, the owner of a bookstore in a small New England town — and shook her up, and I liked the result.

This is a novel about a selfish, amusing, charming woman who is side-swiped by an inappropriate love affair with a man much younger than she is — someone she should be able to control, because she does that so well. Things get away from her. It’s gratifying to watch.

It all starts because she comes across an anonymous love letter which upsets her view of her world and paves the way for Johnny. Schine does an interesting job with Johnny; he’s young, but not shallow; he’s interesting but not quirky. Schine is just plain good when it comes to quick, vivid characterization. Here’s Helen’s mother:

“Lilian was severe and short-tempered with a throaty voice. She smoked in the bath. When Helen was growing up, her mother treated her like an adult who, for reasons no one cared to go into, was too small to reach the light switches. Helen trailed around after her mother in a soft haze of half understanding. Adult conversations, thrilling and somehow important, surrounded her, as indecipherable and compelling as new art. Lilian, propped against the pillows, would gossip mercilessly and good-humoredly into the telephone. Lolling on the bed, at the foot like a lapdog, Helen listened contentedly to her mother’s side of the conversation.”

The only problem I had with this novel, which is witty and wise and sharply observed, is that the pacing seemed very slightly off once or twice. Otherwise it’s a book I’ll be thinking about for a good long while, and thus, a success.

8 Replies to “The Love Letter — Cathleen Schine”

  1. Hello, I’m only wondering, were can u get the text that’s in the love letter, the actual love letter. I men I know it starts by “Dearest, do you know how much in love with you I am?” or something like that, but I would love to have it all. So if anybody who knows reads this, pleease e-mail me!

  2. Yes I belive so to, but it’s just that I don’t go to the library that very often and it would be very great if anybody who knows could tell me in an e-mail:)

  3. I found it! Yeeeeees; for all of you who wonders:


    Do you know how much in love with you I am? Did I trip? Did I stumble? Lose balance? Graze my knee? Graze my heart? I know I’m in love when I see you. I know when I long to see you. I’m on fire. Not a muscle has moved. The air is still. The leaves hang in the trees. There’s no breeze. I have fallen in love without taking a step.
    You’re all wrong for me and I know that but I can no longer care for my thoughts unless they’re thoughts of you.
    I look away from you sometimes, then I look back. I feel your hair touch my cheeks when it does not.
    When I peel an orange, tie my shoe, drive my car, when I lie down each night without you… I remain…


  4. This love letter is beautiful. It is one of my favorite. It probably is my favorite, and it is impossible to find. So thank you “Me” for going to all the trouble to find it and place it here.
    All my gratitude,

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