Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dear Mr. Knightley

Let me begin by saying I had a lot of expectations about this book. I had heard nothing but good things about it from my friends. I expected that Katherine would reference Emma, at least, if not other works of Jane Austen. I expected it to be lighthearted and fun. I expected it to be romantic (duh!) and entertaining. 
I purchased this book for my Kindle, and I actually forgot about it. I know, I know. I heard the collective gasp and cries of "how could you?"  Well, it's easier than you think. My life has been crazy for the last few weeks, and browsing my Kindle for something to read wasn't exactly high up on the 'To Do' list. Fast forward to Sunday. The weekend had been brutal, I wasn't feeling well, and I needed a distraction. Time to blow the figurative dust off the Kindle, I thought. And lo and behold, what did I find waiting just for me but Katherine Reay's book. I finished it this afternoon. I know what you're wondering. Will I now say that Dear Mr. Knightley met my expectations? Yes. And no. 

This book was everything I expected/wanted/hoped it to be. I am an Austen fan. I have read all of her novels, and I hold several of the film adaptations very close to my heart. I also enjoy Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, and have seen the movie The Count of Monte Cristo. Why does this matter? Because it matters to Sam. Or, Samantha, if you prefer. Sam's "friends" - these characters- were already my "friends" too. I connected with her instantly on those grounds alone. But it goes deeper. Sam wants to be a writer. It's her dream. She "wants it so bad she can taste it." I can relate to that. 
Sam doesn't know how to let people in. The circumstances of her life have trained her to cope- to hide behind her walls. Granted, Sam's childhood was much more difficult than mine, and her journey couldn't be more different. But her thoughts/struggles/feelings are the same. And I start to wonder if maybe Katherine was following me around and taking notes for her character development. 

Here comes the No-
It went beyond my expectations. This book was MORE. I don't know what other word to use. 
It wasn't just a romp through the life of your average college student, who wittily quotes Jane Austen to her friends, and one day manages to stumble into the "perfect" Austen hero, fall madly in love, the end. 
I didn't expect to think. It sounds horrible, but part of me assumed this book would be a "no-brainer." I was wrong. With every letter, Sam unearths a new truth about herself. Sometimes, it's painful. And in those moments, I would wonder, "are we the same?" 
As the reader, you get the raw, unfiltered story, just like Mr. Knightley. And in a way, Sam baring her soul forces you to do the same. It also forces you to care. A lot. You invest in the characters- in the story. 
I'm always happy when a book surprises me. And Dear Mr. Knightley was such a book. I highly recommend it- especially of you are an Austen fan- but you don't have to be. This book has a story to tell to each of us. I challenge you to read it and see if it doesn't cause some introspection in your own life.