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Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel Paperback – November 12, 2013
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'This delightful debut novel about how one young woman learns to become the person she was meant to be will resonate with fans of New Adult fiction and with readers who enjoy Jane Austen spin-offs.' --Library Journal Starred Review
'Katherine Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley kept me up until 2:00 a.m.; I simply couldn't put it down.' --Eloisa James, New York Times best-selling author of Once Upon a Tower.
About the Author
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked in not-for-profit development before returning to school to pursue her MTS. Katherine lives with her husband and three children in Seattle, WA. Dear Mr. Knightley was her first novel. Twitter: @Katherine_Reay Facebook: katherinereaybooks
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Let me start this off with touching on the book’s narrative taking the form of letters. I like that Katherine Reay did something different with Sam telling her story/journey through one-sided letters to her anonymous benefactor. It’s not only diverting from the norm, but it helped emphasized the aura of a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens story which is par for the course for the book with its bookish leading lady. But the thing with this approach (and the level of financial involvement of the mystery benefactor) is that a certain level of suspended belief is needed. I mean, I don’t know about you, but none of my letters (or emails) are this descriptive with quoted dialogues. Calling them ‘journal entries’ would probably be more fitting. But that may be me being nitpicky or just a plain ole killjoy.
I enjoyed that Reay didn’t take the easy and expected route to make Sam into a charismatic and witty female lead that you would find in a Austen-influenced story. In a way, Sam was the opposite. She was distant, on guard with less than great people skills which made it difficult for her to connect and make friends. While I appreciated the different approach to Sam’s character, it also made reading the first half of the book a little difficult for me. It just felt like the first half of the story consisted of Sam bemoaning her situation, making it difficult to like her as a character and getting engaged in the story. It wasn’t until I read further and Sam started to grow and get connected with other characters that the story picked up. It was then that you saw the layers to Sam and the issues that she carried around, using characters from her favorite books to quote and hide behind.
This book is more than just an homage to Jane Austen and other classic authors. While it carries the feel of an Austen book, it went beyond that. It was actually a story about breaking out of your shell and defining yourself by the choices you make in the present and for your future instead of letting your past hold you back. Reay’s debut had a rocky start for me, but eventually righted itself to give a nice story with heart and enough Austen quotes that any fan of hers would appreciate.
At the beginning, I thought it all very one-sided, because it was in letter format-kind of stilted and like I was missing some essential part. But as I read more, the character delved more into who she was, what motivates her, what makes her tick, what events happened in her past that have molded who she is and how those events have caused her to put up walls. Walls that include quoting character lines from books by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brönte and many others. A most interesting defense mechanism, and totally understandable because what better way to explain thoughts you're trying to figure out when you're at a loss for words! But as faces her inner demons and finds people that genuinely care about her, baggage and all, you begin to hear her inner voice; and then you cheer for her when she makes strides to stand on her own words, her own thoughts, and her own two feet. And you especially cheer for her when she realizes that there are people in her l life that are willing to stand with her.
Throughout this story, issues of abuse, betrayal, abandonment, self-doubt, self-worth, commitment and forgiveness are addressed. I love how the author weaves these together into the beautiful tapestry of Samantha!! If you are any sort of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brönte, or any other British Literature fan, trust me, you'll enjoy this book greatly!!!
Reay did not just touch me with the main character's personal story, but also by how well she was able to portray Sam's feelings. She had been through a lot of difficult situations in her life and found a way to protect herself by hiding in stories - stories that depict human nature as it is and in which the characters are able to strive and find happiness at the end. I guess this was a thread of hope Samantha held on to. In her real life she did not have any example of good hope, however in stories she was able to see that life can be beautiful and worth it. In these stories she finds the emotions and the "normal" she doesn't have in real life.
So, when an anonymous benefactor promises to pay for her grad studies if she writes to him constantly, Samantha finds out this is exactly what she needs in order to reflect on the way she has protected herself and pushed others away. Sam is also finally able to find her own voice and to learn to let go of her past and let people in.
I loved every single character and how they helped in someway Samantha's growth - many of them growing along side her.
Many times Samantha calls herself clueless and thinks herself naive to the ways people do things. I actually think she is very mature and measures the consequences of her actions better than many. The problem is that Sam doesn't trust herself and doesn't know her own voice, which is why she feels so insecure many times she doubts the decisions she makes. When she finally finds her voice, she finds out that her intuitions have been right all along.
I read Daddy Long Legs right after and had lots of fun. I know Katherine Reay was inspired by this funny story, but she retold it in her own unique way.
When I finished the book I missed the characters.
The story was believable and possible to relate to.
I confess I read it again thinking about all the things I now knew about Sam and the other characters. I understood her more and wanted to hug her every time she quoted
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