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.
My source for book: Review CopyMy Thoughts:
This novel has a very unique format as almost the entire book is made up of letters, but it's actually often easy to forget that fact... Samantha's letters are so detailed and lengthy that the book often just feels like a first-person perspective novel, rather than a series of letters. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the letter style, but I actually ended up really enjoying the uniqueness.
Even though Sam is in her early 20's, the overall story has a lovely coming of age feel. As Sam seeks and learns how to let down her carefully constructed emotional barriers, she learns about different aspects of life, all the while detailing her successes and failures in her letters. It's very enthralling, and even though some tough subjects are touched upon, the overall feeling is generally light with a hopeful outlook for the future.
I have to admit that I LOVED Alex, and the way Samantha met him was really fun. Even though he's a famous author, he is very down-to-earth, practically cringing at the attention his work brings him. He is somewhat mysterious and very intriguing, and I found myself eagerly anticipating each time Samantha would mention him in her letters.
There are many references to classic literature, most of which I'm ashamed to say I've never read. However, the unfamiliar references really didn't dull my enjoyment of the story; for the most part the references were either explained, or were self explanatory within the context. So if you're like me and haven't read many classic titles, don't let that stop you, it won't hinder the story. However, I do admit to having an urge to finally pick up Pride & Prejudice so I can see what all the fuss is about! :)
Ultimately, the bottom line is that I completely and 100% recommend this novel. Though it's Katherine Reay's debut novel, you certainly wouldn't know by reading it. I'll be keeping my eye on her, because I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next. Without a doubt Dear Mr. Knightley is one of the best new books from 2013 that I've read.
My Rating: 5 stars!!!!
Thanks to the publisher (Thomas Nelson) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.