Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Having a large pile of books to read means that I often don’t feel like trying to push myself through stories I’m not enjoying. Sometimes, if I don’t get drawn in right away, I get an even more negative reaction to a book because I feel forced to read it. When I agree to review a book or request one, I want to read it and share my thoughts. My commitments are something that I want to honor.

On the other hand, because of this, I sometimes feel this push to finish a book forces me to read just the few more pages I need to in order to start enjoying it. Not all books will hook every reader on the first page, or even the first chapter. Ideally they will, but it just doesn’t always happen. Such was the case for me with Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. I’ve been seeing her novels popping up a lot recently and was quite intrigued. This was definitely a book that I’m glad I stuck with and finished.

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**I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review**

“Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley kept me up until 2:00 a.m.; I simply couldn’t put it down.” —Eloisa James, New York Times best-selling author of Once Upon a Tower Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger. Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore. But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress. As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken. Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

I really did not like this book when I started it. I actually put it down with intentions of not reading it, probably two or three different times. For some reason though, I kept picking it back up. Then I reached a point where I really wanted to know what would happen to the main character in the story.

Connecting with the main character in a novel is crucial in my opinion. For this book, I just was not connecting with Samantha Moore (Sam). I think part of the reason is that the novel is predominantly (except for the last chapter or so) written in letters from Sam to a person who is going by Mr. Knightley. While we are getting a glimpse of Sam’s thoughts and what she is experiencing, there was just something that was preventing me from having any sort of emotional connection to her.

Fortunately, about a quarter of the way through the book, I really started to learn more about Sam and I felt more interested in her life. As people moved in and out of her life and she would struggle with friendships and relationships, I wanted to see that she would be alright. I wanted to see how things would end. The last third of the book became difficult for me to put it down.

This is a novel about discovering your identity and conquering the things that might hold you back. Sam Moore is a protagonist who is struggling with both due to an extremely hard past. Through her letters, that are nearly more like a diary, she is able to process the moments in her lives and the people surrounding her–throughout it all, Sam spouts quotes from all of Austen’s works, references the Count of Monte Cristo, reads Life of Pi, and just loves all things literary.

I would love to hear from you! What novels were you tempted to put down but were then rewarded by sticking with it?

For more on the author or this book, please check out the following links:

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6 thoughts on “Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

  1. D.L., Thank you so much for sticking with the story. Sam was a tough one because of the restraints I put on her… A young woman, who was in no way going to open easily, was forced to write letters. That made the beginning super tough on me because she wouldn’t crack open and I couldn’t force her… And I so wanted to keep the epistolary format. 🙂 You struck upon number 1 struggle. 🙂 But, as I said, I’m thrilled you stuck with it and enjoyed her story. Thank you!


    1. I can imagine how difficult that was. Once I really got into the novel, I really started enjoying it. It was worth the struggles in the beginning. I’m glad there is something that just kept pulling me back to the story. By the end, I loved it!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!! 🙂


  2. As usual, we are on the same books again. I have this one on the kitchen counter. I am really hesitant after this review to start it. I’m glad I stopped by to read the review. It has had so much publicity. I’m going to rethink this. I have so many in my pile right now. I might save it for a rainier day! Thanks!


    1. It was really good–once I got into it. It was a struggle, but later on I understood why it was. Once I felt like i was gonnecting with the main character though, I had a hard time putting it down. I sm actually hoping to get a hold of Reay’s Lizzy and Jane now.


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