Saturday, July 5, 2014
Dear Mr. Knightley
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.
Daddy Long-Legs for adults. Brilliantly done.
Jean Webster penned Daddy Long-Legs in 1912 and it has become a classic in Young Adult literature. It has even been made into movies and plays and was an absolute favourite of mine as a kid. I have even read the book multiple times as an adult. There's something about the story that just captured my imagination. I hold that book in high-esteem so I approached Dear Mr. Knightley with some trepidation. But though Reay has stayed true to the basic plot of the original story, she has added new depth and dimension to her 21st century version.
Sam is a captivating heroine. Told entirely from her point of view in a series of letters she writes to her mysterious benefactor, the fictitious Mr. Knightley. This is a fascinating study into the psyche of a young woman abused and neglected in her youth. The author slowly peels away all the protective layers Sam has buried herself in. I could relate to Sam's coping mechanism -- retreating into the world of books. She immerses herself in the world of favourite characters to the point where she becomes a cardboard copy of them. Dear Mr. Knightley is the story of her journey towards self-discovery. It's touching and funny and heart-breaking and, ultimately, the grandest of love stories.