Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Notes: "Dear Mr. Knightley", by Katherine Reay

When it comes to classic books one of my all-time favorites is the epistolatory novel "Daddy Long Legs", by Jean Webster. And - perhaps even more dear - its sequel, "Dear Enemy".

So, when my mom handed me "Dear Mr. Knightley", by Katherine Reay and told me that it was inspired by "Daddy Long Legs", I was easily convinced to read it.


And I loved it.  That's the upshot.

Now that said, I am going to be horrible and give you my one objection to this book here at the beginning of this review. It's absolutely not fair for me to do this, because really this book was wonderful, wonderful, and beyond all whooping.

- - - so: SPOILER WARNING here - - -

BUT.  Why, oh why, oh why, did she changed to third-person in the last chapter? I wanted, I needed, I had to have the ending in the same, wonderful voice as the rest of the book! Why did I have to read the conclusion - the wonderful, fulfilling, well-earned conclusion - in that removed, distant third-person voice?

I loved the main character's voice. LOVED it. It was brilliant. I don't know how Katherine Reay managed to convey to me a character who was so very, very flawed, and yet whom I liked so very, very much, I only know that she did, and that I felt cheated in getting the climax of the story in someone else's voice.


BUT. (Again.) But, but, but. Don't, by all means, please, don't let that one criticism keep you from reading this book. You should read it. It is good, and sigh-worthy, and wonderful, and you should read it.

And to that end, let me begin my review properly, and tell you a bit of what this wonderful book is about.

- - - - END SPOILERS - - - -

Sam (Samantha) Moore is an orphan. She's been through a lot, and you find out a bit about what that "lot" is through the course of the book, but our story opens when she's given a grant to attend graduate school in journalism, thanks to a mysterious benefactor. All her benefactor wants in return is regular letters, conveying her progress in her studies. The whole story (almost!) is told through these letters, which are addressed to "Mr. Knightley", the pseudonym assumed by the nameless benefactor. A pseudonym, it should be noted, that gives our literary-minded Sam reassurance that her benefactor is, in fact, a good man.

The story follows Sam as she tries, fails, and tries again. I was amazed, as I read it, by how much I was rooting for such a flawed character. I liked Sam, even as I was clearly aware I'd find her a trying friend in real life. I tried to figure out how Reay accomplished that, and all I really could conclude was that it was because Sam herself was really aware of her own failings (at least some of them) and was doggedly determined to improve. I couldn't help but love a heroine so persistent and so clear-eyed.

And I loved the hero, too, when he came along. Yes, this is a romance. (Of course! All the best books are.) I love romances where the hero and heroine become better people in each other's company, and that was really true here.

This book is so good. Despite my gripe about the ending, the only reason it bothered me so much was because I cared so much. And the only reason I cared so much was because Reay made me care so much. She's so good, you guys. So, so good. I've got her next book, "Lizzie and Jane", on my shelf and I can't wait.

Also, to be fair, I probably wouldn't have had my gripe about the ending if I weren't such a fan of Reay's inspiration, the classic "Daddy Long Legs". If you've read it, then you've read Jerusha's last, exultant letter, and you'll know what I was expecting. Without that expectation, you might not mind the end of "Dear Mr. Knightley" at all. So, be aware that I might be being completely unfair.

Anyway. This was a great book, and it got me out of a bit of a reading slump. Highly recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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bekahcubed said...

Sounds like a very fun book (despite the unfortunate ending - I hate when authors do stuff like that!) I'll definitely be checking it out.

Jessica Snell said...

Cool! I hope you like it as much as I did. :)