Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

For any reader who loves, loves, loves books--particularly classic romances--Dear Mr. Knightley may just be a must read. Dear Mr. Knightley is largely inspired by Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. Yes, the title might lead you to believe this is an Austen-inspired contemporary romance. And, in a way, it is that too. But. The Daddy-Long-Legs connection is even more apparent--at least to those that have read it. There may be plenty of readers who are unfamiliar with that 1912 classic!!!

Samantha Moore is the heroine of Dear Mr. Knightley. She absolutely loves to read. She has read her favorite classics again and again and again. Jane Eyre. Pride and Prejudice. Sense and Sensibility. Much Ado About Nothing. The list goes on and on. She loves to lose herself in a good, satisfying story. (And she doesn't even require a happily ever after for every single one.) She has read them so often, that she can quote from them with ease. She's got an ample supply of quotes for every single situation. Does this help her connect with people in the real world? Not so much. Sam also has another passion. She runs. She absolutely loves to run. She feels she finds herself in the process. She credits RUNNING and READING with saving herself from her not so perfect life.

So the novel opens with Sam getting ready to start a new chapter in her life. She will be attending graduate school in Chicago. She will be studying journalism. There is a sponsor who will pay for her schooling, if, she will write him once a month to keep him up to date on her studies and her progress. This correspondence is one-sided. The name chosen--by him--is Mr. Knightley. This puts her at ease at once. How could Mr. Knightley be anything but a kindred spirit?!

The novel focuses on relationships and connections, Sam, finding a place to belong and gaining a true sense of self. Sam who has spent most of her life in various foster programs and group homes has struggled with this. She is in her mid-twenties and tired of feeling lost and in-between.

There are many characters introduced in this one. I absolutely loved the character of Alex Powell. He's first introduced as a best-selling author of a mystery series. His detective makes Sam swoon. She meets Alex at an author event in Chicago. They share some significant minutes together: ten or twenty minutes of pleasant conversation. He happens to introduce her to a professor, one of his best friends in the area, and this professor takes a liking to her. This professor and his wife invite her into their lives…

Dear Mr. Knightley was completely enjoyable! I loved it more than Daddy Long-Legs. (For the record, I found Daddy Long Legs spiritually questionable, at best.) While Dear Mr. Knightley was published by a Christian publisher, I feel this title could crossover well. The spiritual message--if there is one--is understated.

If you are truly a “Mr. Knightley,” I can do this. I can write these letters. I trust you chose that name as a reflection of your own character. George Knightley is a good and honorable man—even better than Fitzwilliam Darcy, and few women put anyone above Mr. Darcy.
Dear Mr. Knightley, I thought about you last night and stayed up reading Emma. I adore her, though she’s out of my reach. Can you imagine such confidence and assurance of your own significance? Do you know anyone who would dare declare that he or she “cannot really change for the better”? I’d like to believe that—even for a moment. But no, I gravitate toward Fanny Price, morally spot-on, but commonly thought dull. Or Anne Elliot, demure and kind, not one to stand out in a crowd. Or the ever-practical and sensible Charlotte Lucas. Those dear friends I understand.
I’m a twenty-three-year-old woman who has never been with a guy, never really even kissed a guy, and clearly can’t speak to one. Who could understand that? My idea of romance comes from Jane Austen—and I was scandalized when Darcy and Lizzy kissed at the end of that BBC movie.
How would it feel to get carried away on emotion like Marianne? To be so recklessly entranced? So passionately in love? I never thought Marianne’s devotion to Willoughby was prudent, and it wasn’t, but I bet it was fun. And later, I’m sure all that passion enveloped Colonel Brandon.
Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be, is hard work. Right now, I’d love a good chat with Jane Eyre. She never lost herself. Not once.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Monica said...

I really enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightly I think I am going to have to add Daddy Long-Legs to my list!