Friday, November 15, 2013

Review of "Dear Mr. Knightley"

Rating: 5 Stars
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Review: As a Jane Austen fan, the title "Dear Mr. Knightley" immediately caught my attention. I wasn't sure what to expect from Katherine Reay's debut novel, especially since it is written as a series of one-way letters from Samantha Moore to the mysterious "Mr. Knightley." The format is fresh, and completely grabbed my attention. The more I read, the more engrossed I became.  So engrossed that I spent almost an entire day reading, which is rare.  "Dear Mr. Knightley" is not strictly an "Emma" spin-off; it is a modern combination of elements seen in the works of the classic authors mentioned throughout the novel - Dickens, Bronte, Gaskell, and Austen.  The plot has pain, triumph, love, trust, belonging, and self-discovery.  Samantha's Mr. Knightley adds an air of mystery.  Although he is largely silent, it is impossible not to wonder who is behind the pseudonym.

Samantha mentions a few times in her first letters that she has trouble connecting with others.  She carries emotional baggage from a childhood spent in foster homes and living with troubled parents. Reay reveals Samantha's story gradually, building a strong emotional connection as Samantha opens up and shares her life experiences.  Reading Samantha's letters feels more personal than reading a novel told in a traditional first person format.  There is a casual, journal-like quality that makes Samantha's story more engaging and real. There are a few love stories built in the pages, both familial and romantic love, equally sweet and captivating.

Fans of Jane Austen will appreciate the references to the famous authoress and her contemporaries throughout "Dear Mr. Knightley." In fact, we might even gain a new appreciation for Austen's Mr. Knightley, who is often overshadowed by another Mister of Austen's creation. Reay presents her own version of Mr. Knightley, who despite his own mistakes, possesses the strength of character and devotion as his namesake. I believe Ms. Austen would be quite proud.

Kathering Reay makes a stunning debut, sharing her creativity and talent with readers.  She is certainly an author whose next novel I will anticipate.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Summary from Thomas Nelson: Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.
Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most.
But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself “Mr. Knightley”) offers to put Sam through the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it’s pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is – once again – made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.  
Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

Meet 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 as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in "Focus on the Family" and the "Upper Room." Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. "Dear Mr. Knightley" is her first novel.

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