Dear Mr. Knightley

By: Katherine Reay

Review by: Alex Frank

With a bachelor’s degree in English and an obsession with classics, Samantha Moore is 23 and her life has barely begun. With no career and no set plans for the future, Sam has found herself back at Grace House, a home for foster children and orphans. After accepting a grant for full tuition paid to the prestigious Medill School of Journalism, Sam begins to doubt her incentive to attend. She does not feel she will enjoy reporting, but decides to peruse a master’s degree anyway.

But there’s a catch. In return for the grant money, Sam must write regular letters to a pseudonym by the name of Mr. Knightley. This mysterious man will never write her back, nor will Sam know his true identity. The letters are meant to inform Mr. Knightley about how school is going for Sam, but the letters soon turn personal. Sam begins to reveal intimate details about her life. Details she has never shared with anyone else.

Reay has a good quality of writing. Sam’s letters were easy to read, and I feel I gained some insight into the life of orphaned and foster children. That being said. Here is the criticism. This novel is an epistolary novel, which I usually enjoy. Letters between characters can be very personal and give a special depth to a story not seen in regular first or third person.However, this is not the average epistolary novel.

It is one character who has turned the mysterious Mr. Knightley into what she describes as “a glorified diary.” Throughout the whole novel, we really only gain insight into the mind of one character, Sam. And I must say, I’m not impressed with her. Reay had me at writing letters, but lost me with references to Starbucks, wireless printers, and BBC America. Having a main character that talks and thinks like Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice in a modern Chicago setting is mildly irritating and unrealistic. I understand people who appreciate literature, but Sam lives in it. This makes her thought process a bit hard to digest at times.

Unfortunately, that’s not all that makes her thought process hard to digest. I found Sam to be almost completely unrelatable. She is too innocent and apparently ignorant of how the world works (or love for that matter). Incredibly socially awkward with trust issues, Sam shoves everyone away that has ever cared about her and comes off as unappreciative. She also has this nagging way of feeling one way one minute and then turning around and stating something totally different the next. She is indecisive and can’t make up her mind. Sam has epiphanies about herself all the time, but then does absolutely nothing with the information. She seems to be stuck in her ways.

By the end of the book she talks about how much everything changes her, yet I feel she is close to the same person with some minor attitude changes.

Samantha Moore= self-deprecating, arrogant woman.

She’s a mess. Had some good moments, but, in the end, I was not a fan.

Rating: 2.5

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