Dear Mr. Knightley,
I thought about you last night and stayed up reading Emma. I adore her, though she's out of my reach. Can you imagine such confidence and assurance of your own significance? Do you know anyone who would dare declare that he or she "cannot really change for the better"? I'd like to believe that--even for a moment.
Lizzy Bennet. Jane Eyre. Edmond Dantes. All fictional characters, but all real, constant friends to a girl who grew up in the foster care system after being taken away from her neglectful and abusive parents. Now grown up, Samantha Moore still has trouble connecting in relationships. Why trust the real world when the perfect companions are readily available in her beloved books? When all seems lost, Sam is given the opportunity to gain her Master's degree in journalism (though literature was her first choice, of course), but there's one catch. She must keep her anonymous benefactor informed with how her studies are progressing through letter-writing. So Sam reveals not only the details of her studies but her life to the silent but dependable person whom she only knows as as her Dear Mr. Knightley.
Except for the last chapter, Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay's debut novel, is comprised entirely of Sam's letters to Mr. Knightley. This format took a little time to get used to and the story began a bit slow, but a third of the way in I was captivated, halfway through I was completely invested, and by the end, I loved the characters and Sam's story dearly. Though written in first person, all of the characters--Ashley, Kyle, Alex, Father John, Professor Muir and Mrs. Muir--and the situations come across achingly raw and authentic. I only felt a bit jarred at the end when I had to get used to seeing the world in third person, outside of Sam's intensely personal perspective. I suppose that's how our main character felt when she was forced to look up from her novels, encounter the real world, and discover herself as well.
Like Sam did with her first copy of Pride and Prejudice, I want to read this book until the covers wear thin and I'm forced to buy another copy. Heart-breakinglyly honest, brilliantly hopeful, and sweetly romantic, I believe Jane Austen would approve.
Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Coming of Age
Pages: 297 (ebook version)
Age Range: 15 and up
Publication Date: November 2013