Dear Mr. Knightley
Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.
After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters
I have to say that this book captured my attention right away and just held it tight all the way through. The story itself was very good and the writing style was highly captivating. If you’ve read Emma by Jane Austen or just even watched the movie, you might have the idea that this book might be a retelling of that. But you would be very wrong! I was very happy to be wrong anyway. Because this book was not in any way a retelling of that very classic tale, it had its own story, its own characters and it was full of references to the classics, such as Emma, but also the works of the Brönte Sisters and many more. I really enjoyed how these references were worked into the story in a very natural way that added to the story instead of pulling you out of it. In general I was also very happy that this wasn’t a retelling because even though at times I do like those, for me it’s a huge hit or miss thing and I was happy to escape that dance with this book.
Sam is a great main character with an honest voice in her letters. She was very complex and that just made me like her more. But Sam is not the only character in this book who I came to love, thee were many more. And the reason for that is that all these characters were extremely well-written. They all had their good and bad qualities and they just felt so very human because of it. And that is just what makes a good character. The way these characters interacted with each other also just made it that much better as a whole! Samantha was very awkward in her interactions with other people and it was great to have the insight into her feelings during these awkward situations. Of course this book is all written in letter form so you only ever get to see things from Sam’s perspective, but I did not find it lacking or as if it took away from the other characters.
As a whole this book just wowed me a lot. There was a lot more depth to this story than I had anticipated and this was a pleasant surprise. The format of the novel also really helped me to feel personally involved with the story which just got me instantly hooked. At all times the writing really flowed and there was never a time when I just wished the pace would pick up or slow down. And as I mentioned before, the references to classic literature was great. It didn’t feel forced in any way, it actually carried the book to a higher level because it just had its own purpose and place in the story. This is definitely more than a little cute book, and there’s a lot of humor in it as well.
In general I loved this book very much. I will probably be rereading it somewhere in the future, because that’s just what I do with books I love. I could not finish this book fast enough because I was that into the story. I would recommend this book to any and all lovers of classic literature, not because it feels the same, but the love for classics is right there in the pages.