Dear Mr. Knightley
By Katherine Reay
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Source: AuthorSummary: 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.
Review: As soon as I saw this book advertised on Goodreads, I KNEW I had to read it. I mean, it's about a 23-year-old girl who writes letters to Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's Emma. Seeing as I'm kind of obsessed with Jane Austen, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one.
Sam has had a rough life going through the foster care system. The only way she's been able to survive is through her books, hiding behind the identities of the characters she reads. At 23, she's found herself fired from her job for being able to connect with the clients, and her only option is to return back to the foster home and accept a grant to get her Masters in Journalism. Sounds great, right? Well in order to keep her scholarship, Sam has to write letters to Mr. Knightley, the anonymous man who granted her the scholarship, and keep him updated on her progress. Sam is soon pouring her heart and soul into these letters, and discovers much more about herself, learning that she doesn't have to be so alone in this world after all.
Oh gosh. I want a Mr. Knightley to write letters to! Haha, I absolutely loved the premise of this story. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out with the format composed entirely of the letters Sam writes, but I didn't even remember I was reading letters half the time. Sam's story is so real and she grows so much. I loved her character and the journey she went through in finally opening up to people.
There are two parts of this book that made it as good as it was: The literary references and Alex Powell. Let's start with the literature. As an English person, I was totally in sync with all of her quotations/references to Austen, the Brontes, and other authors. Also, I loved how she compared everyone in her life to the characters of the novels because they were always so spot on and made that character make so much more sense. If you've read Jane Austen's novels, you're definitely going to love this one.
Okay, now onto reason number two why I loved this book: Alex Powell. Not only is he a super successful author who isn't at all arrogant about it, but he's also someone who truly cares about people. The way Alex and Sam meet and build their relationship through his "research" for his new book is absolutely perfect. They're just two people who both have secrets and need someone to talk to and be there for them. I love how they're always running, eating, and talking about books. Sounds just like my life! But seriously, I could really connect with them and enjoyed the progression and growth of their relationship.
I don't know what more to say other than I truly loved this book. And it's the author's debut novel! Where has she been? If this is her first novel, I can't wait to see what else Katherine Reay can come up with. I'm crossing my fingers for even more Austen inspiration and another heroine who is completely relatable and really captures the reader's emotions. Every Austen fan and bookish person needs to read this one. You'll find yourself in a world of literature where books aren't the only thing that can save your life.