If there’s an upside to battling the flu, I’d have to say it’s the opportunity to lie still and read a good book. At the end of 2013, there were so many people singing the praises of Katherine Reay and her debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. So it quickly moved to the top of my TBR pile for 2014. I have to say, that was an excellent decision. First the blurb and then my review …
“Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.
Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.
Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most.
But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself “Mr. Knightley”) offers to put Sam through the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it’s pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is – once again – made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.
Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.”
the above description is from publisher Thomas Nelson’s website
My review: I thought Dear Mr. Knightley was an incredibly well-written novel. For fans of great literary works in the vein of Pride and Prejudice or The Count of Monte Cristo, you’ll love the passages the characters quote in every day conversation. I thought the writer’s choice to use these passages as both a shield and a weapon was absolutely brilliant. Samantha Moore is a deeply wounded young woman, thanks to her painful and challenging upbringing in the foster care system. Now an adult with little to no valuable connections to other humans, she struggles to maintain a job because of her poor interpersonal skills. The only real advocate in her life offers her one last opportunity: a scholarship to NU’s Medill School of Journalism. She only has to provide frequent letters to the anonymous donor (Mr. Knightley) footing the bill.I’m always a fan of a relationship that blossoms through letter-writing (think You’ve Got Mail). This novel is no exception. The letters allow Sam to share exactly how she thinks and feels about everything, including her very dark past, which she’s never shared with anyone.
Slowly she comes out of her shell and forms an unlikely friendship with a famous, young bachelor author, Alex Powell. He leads her to a retired professor and his wife who show Sam unconditional love and affection at a time when she could really use it.
Ultimately this is a novel about trust and learning to love, even when our wounds are raw and people sometimes disappoint us. Sam embarks on a fantastic journey in this novel. I laughed. I cried. I rooted and hoped for love to win in the end.
Dear Mr. Knightley is one novel you simply must read this year.