Dear Mr. Knightley (Katherine Reay)

In a word: Cute

Dear Mr. Knightley

You will all be glad to know that this book is not trying to be Emma. It’s about a literature-loving girl who grew up on the streets and in the foster care system, writing letters to an anonymous benefactor who is paying for her to go to graduate school. Samantha quotes literary characters as a defense mechanism, a habit which all of her friends find annoying (As a reader, I felt ambivalent. Who doesn’t love literary quotes? But I also could see the friends’ point.)

I bought this book because the Kindle edition was 1.99, and I needed something light to read on an airplane. This was the way to get maximum enjoyment out of this book. The story is cute, and all the literary references are fun. But I think if you read too carefully or critically, you could get bogged down in the weak points of the narrative.

You’ll have to take the light approach on purpose. Samantha and many other characters bring a lot of baggage to the table, and you might be tempted to think deeply about orphan psychology, child abuse, the United States foster system, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Unfortunately, I don’t really think that the story line or the characters are strong enough to stand up to cross-examination.

Bottom line: if you can resist the temptation to read with your critic’s hat on, you can enjoy this as a light-hearted love story with lots of Jane Austen quotes.


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