Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.
After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.
When given the opportunity to review this book I was ecstatic. I’ve been a lifelong lover of classic literature, and some of my earliest memories are myself curled up with the likes of The Secret Garden, Little Women, and, like Miss Moore, Pride and Prejudice among many, many others. So, when setting out to read this I was hoping I would be able to connect with her character and really get into this novel. At first, I was a little worried as I had trouble forming that connection, because, like is stated throughout the book Sam does have the tendency to live in(and hide behind) her quotes instead of facing reality. Then, though, my feelings changed and I began to really like her. She has been through so much in her life, and though she at times wanted to, she never gave up. She pushed and fought and did what she could to make it in her journalism classes, classes she wasn’t too fond of taking in the first place. At times, she may have come off ungrateful, but she wasn’t. I relished in this opportunity to join Sam in her letters to “Mr. Knightley” and watch as she grew into a remarkable young woman. She goes through many trials, such as trying to help another foster kid find himself and maybe, just maybe, falling in love with the unexpected(yet, sort of expected) along the way. This book had me turning page after page, scanning letter after letter, and I found that I couldn’t get enough. This would make a great book club read, and even has some discussion questions in the back!
An astounding debut by Katherine Reay, a woman that made me fall in love with her writing style, which makes me look forward to seeing what she has in store for us next.
**I received this book in exchange for an honest review via the publisher through Book Sneeze, but this in no way affected my review.**