Dear Mr. Knightley : a novel – A Review

Dear Mr. Knightley; a novel by Katherine Reay is my new favorite read of 2013. Samantha Moore has always lost herself in the works of Austen, Dumas, Bronte, and various other writers, instead of really stepping into the real world.  Escapism at its best. However, when an unknown benefactor offers her the chance to go to the prestigious Medill School of Journalism, Sam has to choose between trying to make it on her own or take a difficult course that could jump start an amazing career.  The only stipulation is that Sam write her benefactor letters on her progress, somewhat like a diary.  The letters are to be addressed to a Mr. G. Knightley.

So begins Sam’s quest to become a journalist, something she is not comfortable with, and learning how to let people into her dark past.  Will she be able to traverse the social world without always quoting from her books? And what will happen when she meets one of her favorite authors, Alex Powell, and he turns out to be an incredibly warm, charming and young man? Will she retreat into her safe, bookish world?

Dear Mr. Knightly is an epistolary novels, which means it is written completely in Sam’s letters to Mr. Knightley over the course of her schooling. A quarter of the way through the book, I was really not liking Sam, which is unusual for me since I usually love the heroine right off. I thought Sam was like an Emma in her own ways. Superior in her knowledge of English literature and closed to criticism.  However, she starts to grow on you and when she finally really starts to open up to Mr. Knightley, you feel so much for her. The secondary characters add an amazing warmth to Sam’s life. Friendships and ‘family’ help her grow and become a much more confident young woman.

I knew I had to read this book from the title because any Austen fan knows of Mr. Knightley’s wonderfulness. I almost laughed three-quarters of the way through the book when Sam wrote and said: “I think I’ve told you this before, Mr. Knightley, but a name is a powerful thing. I don’t know that I could have shared so much with you if you were a Mr. Elton or a Frank Churchill.  They weren’t honorable men. George Knightley was. So I trusted you on that association alone – at first.”

That statement is spot on. You immediately trust Mr. Knightley.

I absolutely loved this book and it will be one I will want to read over and over. The struggles of Sam left me laughing, crying, and sharing in her plight. I want to meet her. I want to read Alex Powell’s books. These characters feel so real to me.  I think my only eyebrow raise would come from how well Alex can quote Jane Austen and knows what quotes Sam is using. I have never met any guy who is a ‘real man’ who could do that. However, it does make for a charming story. Five stars and then some.  Read it. If you love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you’ll love this.

Signing off