Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Giveaway Goodness winners and a look at Dear Mr. Knightley

I have a double dose of Jane Austen goodness to share today and let's begin by announcing the winners of our first Fanny Price Giveaway Goodness contest and congratulations are in order for:

Doris Maat

Evie Cotton

Thank you,ladies,for entering and you will receive your pair of Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampire pins in March-please send your mailing address to livingreadgirl@yahoo.com(five winners were originally planned for but circumstances did not allow for it this time around.  Do not despair,another giveaway for these fabulous Fanny Price pins will be held later this spring)

Now for our second scoop of Austen related sweetness,we will discuss Katherine Reay's debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley,which has been talked about in many other forums but as Lady Catherine would say, I must have my share of the conversation!

The leading lady of this story,told mainly through letters,is Samantha Moore,a young woman whose troubled past still haunts her. She is planning to attend college with the help of a grant obtained for her by Father John, a mentor that runs Grace House,a way station for kids in the foster care system.

One of the main conditions of the grant is for Samantha to write progress reports to the head of the grant foundation who prefers to be called "Mr. Knightley" after the main hero of Jane Austen's Emma. That name suits Samantha just fine,as her major refuge from the traumas of her former and current life are classic literature such as Austen,Charlotte Bronte and Alexandre Dumas( Edmund Dantes often inspires her to feel brave).

Samantha's social awkwardness causes folks to encourage her to venture outside of her comfort zone and I found myself getting a little perturbed at some of their insistence,such as not allowing her to go for an English Lit degree and signing her up for a journalism major instead. Granted,they all meant well but you know you're invested in a book when you find yourself wanting to tell other characters to back off there:

 Samantha does begin to open up,particularly in her letters to Mr. Knightley,but there are a number of obstacles for her to overcome and some are due to Samantha's habit of directly quoting from her favorite books in regular conversation.

Others come from school,as one of her teachers increasingly demands that she show him her "true voice" in writing and some of the new friends Sam makes feel as if she deliberately holds back from them.

Once some of those hurdles are jumped,new ones arise but not without some real emotional benefits like the bond Sam forms with Kyle,another at risk youth at Grace House who shares her joy of running track. Eventually Sam winds up with two potential love interests,Josh who seems like a Colonel Brandon at first but turns out to be more of a Mr. Elton and Alex Powell,a popular yet reclusive mystery writer who becomes a close friend but has secrets of his own to hide.

 As Sam's inner and outer world experiences expand,she learns to take more joy in life and to start trusting others,although that trust is sorely tested by a startling revelation from the last person she would expect it to come from.

 While Samantha's personal journey was extremely engrossing,some of the strongest sections of  the book for me dealt with Grace House,which at times put me in mind of a film released last year called Short Term 12 that deals with this subject well.

 While Dear Mr. Knightley is actually loosely based on Jean Webster 's 1912 novel Daddy Long Legs(made into a Hollywood film in 1955),it does have a contemporary vibe that gels with the overall tone of the story. The balance between old fashioned storytelling and modern day sensibilities is nicely done and most importantly,DMK is one of those hard to put down page turners that make you stay up all night to finish(granted, I read it in ebook form but still...).

In short, I highly recommend Dear Mr. Knightley for any constant reader who takes delight in a good story well told as well as Jane Austen fans. That's all of the Jane Austen news we have at this time,thank you all for tuning in and best wishes for you and your own Mr. Knightley this upcoming spring season:

1 comment:

Felicia said...

Dear Mr. Knightley is on my wish list. I can't wait to read it. I often refer to my hubby as Mr. Knightley. :)