Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay
This novel was a pretty clear adaptation of Dear Daddy Long Legs, and while it lacked the full charm of the original (there's something about 1930s setting that gets lost in translation), it did have its own charm. Samatha Moore has survived a traumatic childhood of abandonment, foster care, and living in an orphanage. And now she has one more chance: a full scholarship to a journalism program. The only catch is that she must write regular letters to her sponsor explaining her progress, without expecting any return missives.
Sam keeps up her end of the bargain, ultimately regarding these letters as a kind of personal therapy. Through the letters, we see her struggle to connect to her emotions and live an authentic life--a challenge that nearly costs her her position in the program. She's learned to protect herself by channeling her beloved historical characters: Edmond Dante, Jane Eyre, Lizzie Bennett. But she has to learn to be herself before she can win the life she wants. Along the way she meets a host of minor characters: a young boy even more guarded than herself, an older couple who provide her a refuge, and a chance encounter with Alex Powell, an author she idolizes, leads to an unexpected friendship.
The ending was not surprising to anyone who's read the original, but it is a sweet story and I connected deeply to Sam's struggles to open up. The beginning was slow and I considered putting it down, but I'm glad I persevered, as the novel was increasingly engrossing.