Samantha Moore graduated with a degree in English, but she hasn’t left her favorite characters behind. In fact, Sam is more comfortable quoting a character from a Jane Austen novel than showing others who she really is. But then Sam is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: A mystery benefactor will pay for her to attend a prestigious journalism school if she will, in return, write him letters about her time in school. Although reserved at first – this whole thing isn’t exactly normal, after all – Sam eventually opens up to the man who calls himself Mr. Knightley. And as she becomes more honest with Mr. Knightley and a novelist she meets named Alex Powell, she becomes more honest with herself. But vulnerability can hurt and trust can be broken…and Samantha can’t hide behind fictional characters forever.
When I first realized this was an epistolary novel (told in the form of letters), I was interested in reading it, but I wondered how attached I’d become to the characters, and if I could be drawn into a story told in this way. But from page one, Dear Mr. Knightley grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go until the last page. Samantha Moore has a strong, unique voice that I just loved. In my opinion, one of the story’s greatest strengths is in how it charts Sam’s growth as a character through her letters. She’s understandably skeptical when she begins writing to Mr. Knightley, and her letters are more formal and straightforward. But as her story progresses, she begins opening up her heart to the mysterious benefactor. She has a troubled past, so she shares some of her heartache, but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, too. Like when she momentarily forgets to whom she’s writing, gets vividly honest about something, and then says something like, “Sorry if that’s too much information, Mr. Knightley, but…” Hilarious. And then there are the references to literary characters. Even if you’re not an avid Austen reader, you’ll love this book, but the more you know about the referenced characters, the better the allusions and comparisons to people in Sam’s life become.
I will say that I predicted the ending as soon as I read the back cover. But even though I had a pretty good feeling about how it would turn out, I kept turning the pages, absorbing Sam’s story, cringing with her, smiling with her, laughing with her, and reaching the end way too quickly.
Yes. That’s my answer to people who ask if they should read Dear Mr. Knightley (and not just because I totally relate to Sam’s English major, literature loving heart). It’s full of humor, heart, and literary allusions (which won’t overwhelm you if you’re not into the classics) that guarantee I’ll be rereading and recommending this book…and anticipating Katherine Reay’s next novel.
From the Back Cover:
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.
Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.
But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s 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 dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.
Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, 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.
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a lifelong affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked in not-for-profit development before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her writing has been published in Focus on the Family and The Upper Room. Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. Dear Mr. Knightley is her first novel.
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