Review of Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

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Genre: Romantic Fiction/Coming-of-Age

Recommended.

Twenty-three year old orphan, Samantha (Sam) Moore, has always hidden behind her favorite books. Her childhood was difficult, so books (especially everything Jane Austen) became her escape, and eventually more of a reality than the present. As she struggles to relate to people, an interesting opportunity presents itself: an anonymous donor would like to pay for her to pursue a graduate degree in journalism–but it has to be journalism, and she must write frequent diary-like letters of her life and experience in exchange.

The novel is written almost entirely in letters, and Jane Austen, Edmond Dantes, Charlotte Bronte, and others are quoted frequently since Sam relates to classic fiction more so than to reality. I was not immediately engaged with the story, especially since I could not quickly recall each of the quoted moments within their literary context. However, with each new letter to the mysterious “Mr. Knightley,” Sam becomes more and more able to express herself. And as the character developed and matured, so did my interest and connection with the story.

I ended up really enjoying the writing, characters, and depth of the narrative. It is almost a coming-of-age piece in that Sam re-experiences her past through her letters, and discovers herself through her challenges. It is also a book about the writing process, which I especially appreciated. Sam’s writing grew as she found her voice within it, and her self expression and openness allowed her to find her voice in life as well. Best of all, it ends well (maybe a bit predictably–but sometimes this is good).

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.

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