I was hooked to Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, faster than the turn of the page. Samantha Moore is a 23-year-old journalism grad student who is being funded by a generous foundation. The only stipulation the foundation asks is for Samantha to report via letters to see that their money is going to good use. As Samantha writes to the pseudonym Mr. George Knightley, she reounts all the major events in her time at Madill’s School of Journalism. As a foster child, she hid herself in her books and the characters of Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Jane Eyre; they became a part of her. As she writes the letters and learns to trust people, slowly those personas fade away and she learns to be herself, despite her past.
I love literature, especially Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and I adored the premise of the book before I started. The moment it was in my hands, it was open. Before I knew it, I was, as Darcy would say it, “in the middle before I knew I’d begun.” If you are not a huge literature guru, do not let that hold you back. Though you may not understand and appreciate all the literary references that lace every letter Samantha writes, it is still a book worth reading for its message, plot, and wonderful character development. I know there were many references I did not understand, but as an avid reader want-a-be, it was a great push to read those classics that Samantha loved.
What I love most about Katherine’s novel is how relatable it is. About the only thing I have in common with Samantha at first look is our deep-rooted love for Pride and Prejudice. I have never experienced the life pains that she experienced, yet as I read Dear Mr. Knightley, I found some universal lessons from her life. As previously stated, Samantha hid herself in books. She would quote them always as her escape; they became her reality. In truth, she was alone and afraid, emotions every person from every walk of life feels at some point or another. But more than anything, she was trying to runaway from her past because she was afraid of it. In her eyes she was damaged goods and she was letting her past define her. That is why I love this line from the book, “It’s your past—your story to share. But remember: it doesn’t define you. Never let anything so unworthy define you.”
I have many things I could regret from my past. Who doesn’t? People have hurt me in my past, and I have hurt myself. If we let it become a part of us, though, it holds us back and drags us down. Our past is unchangeable. Our worth is not held in who we were or what we did, but in who we can become. Everyone can become something better than what they are, always. I believe that “something better” is found in Jesus Christ, Every person thus has value regardless off his or her past. Never let anything so unworthy, so unchangeable, so destructive hinder you from becoming who you can be. The only way to let go of that past is through forgiveness, another intricate lesson to be learned in the pages of Dear Mr. Knightley. No matter where you are at, you have value, you have purpose, and you are loved.
I strongly urge anyone who loves Jane Austen or anyone who loves books that can relate to the core of humanity to read this book. It is phenomenal. It is worth the time! Didactic I mention how addicting it is? I read it in two days…
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.