Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dear Mr. Knightley: My Review

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel

About the Book:
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.

My Comments:
Back in either junior high or high school I read (several times) and loved a book called Daddy-Long-Legs (and since the Kindle version is free, I'm going to read it again.).  Dear Mr. Knightley struck me as an updated version of that book.  In both cases, an orphan girl writes to an anonymous benefactor who is putting her through school.  In both cases, the story is told through those letters.

So, does it work?  In some ways, yes.  I enjoyed to story, and probably would have enjoyed it more had I been a real Jane Austen fan for whom the name Mr. Knightley meant something or who understood the context behind all (or even some) of the literary quotes in the book.  I enjoyed watching  Sam come out of her shell, learn to relate to others, and pursue her craft.

As noted above, the story is told be means of letters Sam writes to her benefactor.  Sam has been hurt both physically and emotionally and hides in literature.  Say something to her and she is apt to respond with a quote from a favorite book.  It is part of wall she has developed around herself.  Despite that, her letters to "Mr. Knightley" are far more intimate, far more personal, far more revealing that anything I ever wrote to parents I loved.  Sam told him that the anonymity allowed her to be open but I find it hard to believe that anyone so closed 1) realized so much about herself and 2) was willing to tell someone.   I would have found it more believable had these been journal entries rather than actual letters.

The books is published by a Christian publisher.  This means that a couple that becomes Sam's friends pray for her a couple of times and that when Sam gets a boyfriend, she doesn't want to be intimate with him.  A friend reminds her that actions have consequences and that sex before marriage is a sin that can harm a relationship.  One of Sam's mentors is Fr. John, but if you didn't know "Fr." was a religious title, you'd never guess it from the story.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.

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