Friday, April 29, 2016

Dear Mr. Knightley...a Modern Take on a Classic

The familiar March proverb "in like a lion, out like a lamb," was true not only weather-wise here in the Midwest, but also in my creative writing life. March was a hectic month socially for me and left little time for writing.

Now at the end of April, I've renewed my efforts to blog again  about books and movies. Despite March's eventful social month, I still manged to read a handful of books.  Over the course of the coming months, I"m sure you'll see a few book reviews trickle in.

The last week of March, I spent a relaxing and restful week in Florida on vacation.  When you're a bookworm on vacation you have two goals in mind; first, how many books can you pack to read and the second is to see how many of the books you transported are you able to read?  I ended up reading about half of the books I packed.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay was the first book I devoured in less than 24 hours. The plot is similar to Jean Webster's Daddy Long Legs...a classic and one of my favorites. Despite the fact that Dear Mr. Knightley's plot was akin to Daddy Long Legs, I still relished the modern take on this classic.  Fans of definitive British author Jane Austen will be delighted with Ms. Reay's references and traces to many of Austen's works.

Dear Mr. Knightley follows twenty-something Samantha 'Sam' Moore who is an orphan living at Grace House. Sam has been given an opportunity for an all-expenses-paid prospect of going to grad school to pursue journalism. Her one condition is that she has to write her benefactor letters on her progress and address him as Mr. Knightley...hence the title.  Sam finds herself sharing more than her growing pains of grad school with Mr. Knightley.  The reader is very quickly introduced to Sam's world, the people she comes into contact with, and her perception of the people and events and her struggle to 'fit' in.  One of the characteristics I liked instantly about Sam was that she was a voracious reader and had a phenomenal memory for recalling quotes and passages from what she reads.  Sam tends to hide behind her books and favorite characters and uses them as a shield of protection against the world.  She quickly learns that she can no longer use reading as armor, but she has to be true to herself and let her true character shine through. By the end of the story, Sam comes into her own sense of self. She still greatly enjoys reading, but she's able to separate fiction from reality.

Who is this mysterious benefactor who calls himself Mr. Knightley?  If you want to know you'll have to read the story and discover for yourself. I'll give you a hint: if your rooting for him and wondering could he be the Mr. Knightley?'re probably on the right track!

One minor issue I had with Dear Mr. Knightley...I felt that Christianity and God were added at the end as an afterthought nearer the end of the novel. The author introduces Sam to Christian people who witness to her, but it seemed that she was still comprehending the gospel message and wasn't quite there in terms of believing that Jesus died on the cross for her sins and she needed to repent and believe.

Dear Mr. Knightley is Katherine Reay's debut novel and it was an exceptional first novel. I'm excited to read more from this talented author.