Dear Mr. Knightley
While the title sounds like yet another Jane Austen spin-off, Dear Mr Knightley, is actually an updated version of the classic epistolary coming-of-age novel, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. Debut author, Katherine Reay, openly has the character borrowing both from Austen and Webster, which is either annoying or endearing. It’s the reader’s choice. And that’s what the storyline becomes: annoying at times, yet also endearing at other times. It’s annoying to continually have Austen and company quotes tossed about throughout the storyline, yet, on the other hand, it’s also endearing to have a character who relies on literature as a means of survival. One of the stumbling blocks in determining audience appeal is pinpointing whether this is a YA novel or not. Although the protagonist is in her twenties, her lack of confidence and bevvy of relationship problems produce a character voice of someone closer to high school age. As for the storyline itself, there is intrigue and momentum as the plot eventually reveals the identity of Mr. Knightley.
Young protagonist Samantha Moore, has bounced in and out of foster care when younger, but life becomes better when she becomes a recipient of a foundation grant allowing her to enroll in a prestigious journalism program. One of the stipulations is keeping her mysterious benefactor, Mr Knightley, apprised of her academic progress. Straight up missives about tough professors would be boring, of course. Instead, through her correspondence with Mr Knightley, we learn all about Sam–her inability to have meaningful relationships, her doubts, her fears, her failings, her victories, and finally her accomplishments.
While the beginning is a bit rough, the middle makes up for it. But the ending–though fitting for the plot direction, is a bit unrealistic. Then again, happy endings are one reason we select escape reading. And it is easy to escape into Dear Mr. Knightley–who wouldn’t want a mysterious benefactor, one who listens silently and produces a magic wand at the right moment to make life a bit easier?
Fans of Austen and other classics will relish the quotes liberally decorating the story throughout. And those who want a light romance with a hint of mystery will appreciate the story as well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was provided, by BookSneeze®, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.
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