Dear readers of My Jane Austen Book Club,
I’m so delighted to be here and to share a bit about Dear Mr. Knightley. This story is the compilation of Samantha Moore’s letters to an anonymous sponsor (Mr. Knightley) who has awarded her a grant to journalism graduate school. And while Sam studies fact, she must lay down fiction – her hiding place.
While we love reading Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs and other favorite classics, Sam lives within them. Growing up in the foster care system, Sam learned to avoid pain, strife and loneliness by “hiding” behind her best friends – Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Jane Eyre... But now this habit is beginning to hurt her and others (as all hiding does), including another young foster kid, Kyle. And that shocks Sam – that she could be an adult who hurts a child.
So the journey begins… And we are invited along through Sam’s increasingly private letters to Mr. Knightley. And believe me, these letters take us on quite a ride. Nothing comes easily to Sam. She struggles to find her own voice, wondering if she has one at all. And the letters almost make us believe we’ve got a first person view to into her world, but we don’t. It’s even better. There’s a delicious layer we see that Sam can’t – there is what she is willing to tell Mr. Knightley, what she tries to withhold and how she interprets events – any or all of which can look to different to us than to her. The epistolary format allowed me to really explore Sam’s limited perspective and twist it about occasionally. I especially loved playing with Mr. Knightley’s anonymity, Josh’s subtle selfishness and Professor Muir’s feistiness.