Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book 340: DEAR MR. KNIGHTLEY Review

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
ISBN:  9781401689681 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781401689698 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00C5QA78M (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers


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.


Samantha Moore is a young twenty-something female whose life has been turned upside down. She grew up in foster care and spent most of her life immersed in books, so much that she uses literary quotes to relate to people. Unfortunately this has a tendency to push people away rather than pull them closer. She's recently lost her job and subsequently her apartment. Forced to return to the only home she's known, she heads back to Grace House. However, her stay doesn't come without strings. She'll only be allowed to stay there if she pursues an additional degree. The priest at Grace House, Father John, persuades Samantha to apply to both the Medill School of Journalism and for a grant from the Dover Foundation. After her acceptance to Medill, she is awarded a grant that covers all of her graduate school expenses but she is required to send letters to the head of the foundation providing updates on her progress. 

These letters began with rather benign updates but eventually begin to reveal who Samantha is at heart through her interactions with her friends, peers, professors, and acquaintances. These letters also reveal many of the struggles Samantha must endure in her quest to finish her graduate degree. These struggles include a holiday bout with a ruptured appendix, being mugged, and her mental struggle with her degree choice. Fortunately these struggles result in Samantha finding housing closer to the school and negate her having to travel great distances late at night, she also befriends the author Alex Powell and his friends, the Muirs. 

Dear Mr. Knightley was actually the first epistolary novel I've read. I thought it would be off-putting reading a novel in letter format, but all of the action and dialogue between the characters are revealed in these letters so at times it didn't even feel like I was reading in a different format. Samantha is a difficult character to understand as she's somewhat prickly at first and doesn't really know who she is since she's spent so much time trying to channel her favorite characters and use literature to try and connect with people. It isn't until she befriends a fellow orphan at Grace House, Kyle, and later Alex that she begins to grow and learn to love and trust. In many ways Dear Mr. Knightley is a coming-of-age story with a twist. I felt all of the characters were well-developed and realistic. It was heartening to watch Samantha grow and learn from her mistakes, although at times others had to point these mistakes out to her. I found Dear Mr. Knightley to be an engaging and fast read that was filled with self-discovery, romance, and drama. If you enjoy reading uplifting or inspirational fiction, then you'll definitely want to add Dear Mr. Knightley to your reading list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Reay in the future.

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via BookSneeze. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed 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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