Jun 062014

Dear Mr. KnightleyLearning to Live Outside Her Novels

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Review Copy from Author

When Samantha Moore was twenty-two and a recent graduate from Roosevelt College she was offered a full-expense-paid grant and scholarship to earn her master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Samantha declined this generous offer because she didn’t want to continue living at Grace House, a foster organization which she has called home for the last seven years. Instead Samantha opted for the career path and tried to earn her own way in the world. Ten months later finds Samantha, jobless, homeless, and back at Grace House asking if the generous grant to study journalism is still available.

Fortunately for Samantha, it is! But there is just one stipulation – she must regularly report via handwritten letters to the foundation’s director, updating him on her progress and “things that matter.” These letters are to be journal entries that she sends to a P.O. box, and addresses to a pseudonym, Mr. Knightley. Samantha happily accepts this contingency and begins to pen one-sided letters to an unknown, unseen, yet magnanimous Mr. Knightley.

What an intriguing way to tell a story! What a beautiful journey of growth and self-discovery! Because of the terrible treatment and lack of love she received as a child, Samantha has learned to cope with life by detaching from the world around her and retreating into the world of classic novels. But living in a world of novels, donning personalities, and quoting words from Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, or Edmond Dantes will not work for long in the real world… Samantha knows that if she is going to make it through this challenging graduate program, have a career, and support herself she needs to step out of her novels and connect to the world. She needs to have real relationships and be active and present with the people in her life.

I loved how Katherine Reay slowly revealed Samantha’s painful and unhappy past to the reader through these confession-like, soul-purging letters. Even though Samantha is extremely introverted and closed-off, I found her endearing, intelligent, honest, and likable. I took great pleasure in observing the gradual change and development of Samantha’s character, and I loved her voice, what a skilled reader and writer she is!

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A little teaser for ya…

What I loved most in this story was seeing Samantha develop relationships with the people in her life. Each relationship is unique and forces Samantha to open up in different ways. She learned how to be a friend, big sister, mentor, and even a girlfriend! My heart warmed to see her reach out to a lonely, hurting teen in the foster care system and her lovely, daughter-like relationship with a sweet childless retired couple. But my favorite relationship was with the mysterious Mr. Knightley. Samantha bares her soul to him and divulges everything! I enjoyed pondering who Mr. Knightley was and if he would ever start replying to Samantha’s letters or meet her in person! When I finally “met” Mr. Knightley I was exceedingly pleased with who he was and his revealed storyline. (Mustn’t say anymore…don’t want to spoil!)

Dear Mr. Knightley is a lovely homage to Daddy Long Legs, Jane Austen, and other great classics! An absorbing and thoughtful stlizzy-jane-katherine-reayory full of honesty, hard challenges, and heart! After such a splendid debut, I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Reay’s next novel, Lizzy and Jane, due out in October 2014!

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  19 Responses to “Dear Mr. Knightley – Katherine Reay”


    I do read alot of JAFF and found this one particularly refreshig in its approach. Samantha was a very likeable character as was Mr Knightly when his identity was revealed.


      I thought so too, Theresa. I love reading stories where the heroine is an avid reader and lover of Jane Austen. 🙂 Yes, Samantha was very likable, she had a hard time opening herself up to others, but she was a kind person with a good heart.


    Sounds like a good read, Meredith. I haven’t read any Emma variations yet, so this looks like a good place to start. I quite like reading stories told through the medium of letters and journals.


      🙂 It’s actually not an Emma variation, Anji – Samantha has very little in common with Emma Woodhouse. But it is a wonderful read if you like epistolary novels and tales of self-discovery and growth!


    I’ve debated on this one since I have a real hang-up with modern adaptations. However, it’s actually NOT an adaptation and it IS “Mr. Knightley”. I watched Daddy Longlegs with my Grandmother years ago, so that’s not a foreign premise either. Thanks for the review…gives me more info to ponder.


      Very true on both accounts, Stephanie! I’m very curious to read and watch Daddy Long Legs since I very much enjoyed this one. 🙂 Thanks for reading my review!


    Bravo for Samantha and her courage in telling her inner thougts! 😉
    I am falling in love with Mr Knigtley without knowing him!


    I loved this book to and it was only my second epistolary style book so I was particularly enthralled with that aside from the heartwarming story.


      I think epistolary/diary novels are a lot of fun, I love the idea of recording their innermost thoughts and feelings! 🙂 The only downside is you really only see one person’s perspective. I would have loved more of Mr. Knightley. 🙂


    This book sounds so heartwarming that I just ordered it. I look forward to reading it soon. Meredith, how can I miss with one of your 5 star books? I look forward to Ms Reay’s next novel as well!


    I really enjoyed this one, too! And I had no idea she had a new book coming out. So excited!


    Meredith, Thank you so much for such a lovely review. I’m thrilled you enjoyed Sam’s story and all the friends and family she met along the way. All the best, KBR


    Beautiful review, Meredith! I loved so much this book, too! It’s one of the best I’ve read this year and I look forward to Reay’s next novel 🙂 It was lovely to see Sam’s growth and I loved her relationship with the Muirs, they were so sweet 🙂 Oh, Daddy Long Legs is great! A wonderful classic 😉


    This will definitely be put on my TBR list knowing you have given it a 5 of 5 start rating! The premise intrigues me and it’s good to know that the characters are sympathetic and engaging. Thanks!

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