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Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel by Katherine Reay

My kids love the summer reading program at our local library.  Each summer, they have to read 10 books in a genre to earn a small prize.  Plus they get coupons for the local ice cream place or a small bag of local chips for reading 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100 books.  It really motivates my kids to read more!  I'm an avid reader, so I love seeing the three of them engrossed in a book.  I have literally moved furniture with them on it after a trip to the library and they were too busy reading to notice.

I don't normally join the adult program, but this year I did to set a good example.  I swore that I would hate reading on the Kindle, but I love it.  The problem is that my kids only see me on my Kindle, and they don't see me with an actual book.  Every time they ask what I am doing, I say I'm reading and they act surprised.  So this summer, they will see me read real books.

I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, so I had to read this book.  Most books based on Austen try to extend the story or give the reader a back story, but Dear Mr. Knightley is different.

Samantha Moore grew up as an orphan, and she hid among characters from classic English literature, particularly Jane Austen.  Sam earned her B.A. in English, but she needs help with graduate school.

Enter the anonymous donor, who wants to be reffered to as Mr. Knightley.  Mr. Knightley believes in Sam, so he is willing to pay for her tuition with one request.  He wants Sam to chronicle her time at school in letters to him.

At first, Sam is reluctant.  She has always been an introvert, rarely letting anyone get to know the person inside.  Although Mr. Knightley only responds a few times, the one-sided relationship helps Sam make a connection to another person.

As she learns how to open up and trust someone on the other side of a letter, she begins to open up to the people who are in her life.  She makes real friendships and learns how to trust and be trusted.

Through Sam's letters, we get to know the real Sam.  She reveals her innermost secrets, fears, and even her dreams.  She feels safe hidden behind her pen and paper, and she lets it all out.

It also helps Sam learn about herself.  Through the course of her time at graduate school, she overcomes her obstacles and learns how to live a more fulfilling life.

This book's concept is similar to an earlier novel, but it has a Jane Austen twist.  Some reviewers claim that Reay stole the idea, but I think she borrowed it and made it better.

Reay did an excellent job delving in to her character's mind.  Although we only got Sam's side of the story, we learn how to acts, what she wears, and what she thinks.  I had only read a few chapters before I felt that I knew Sam and how she would react to situations.

Yes, the ending was predictable.  But that doesn't detract from the story because it was written so wonderfully.

You don't have to be an Austen fan to read this book, but if you are you'll love revisiting your favorite characters.  You might even meet a few again in secondary characters.