Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

Daddy-Long-Legs CoverTitle:  Daddy-Long-Legs

Author:  Jean Webster

I read this in e-book format via DailyLit.

Plot Summary:
Jerusha Abbott is a brilliant young lady stuck doing menial tasks in the orphanage where she grew up.  One day, she is called into the administrator's office, where she catches the long shadow of a gentleman leaving.  The administrator tells her that, due to her excellent writing skills (mocking the orphanage and its staff), she has been awarded a full scholarship to attend college by one of the orphanage's trustees.  She is to write the generous gentleman a letter every month thanking him for his support and informing him of her progres in college.  She is to address each letter to a Mr. John Smith- that is not her benefactor's name, but that is what she is to call him.  Jerusha complies, but says very frankly, early in her correspondence, that she thinks Mr. John Smith a very dull name and will call her secret hero Daddy-Long-Legs, based on her glimpse of his long shadow.  What follows is a delightful epistolary novel in which Jerusha (who changes her name promptly to Judy) shares all her college doings and exploits to Daddy-Long-Legs, from her time on the basketball team to her summers at a farm to her never-quite-gone feelings of isolation from the other girls to a budding romance.

Nymeth reviewed this book (and its sequel) on her blog early this week and, based on the quotes she shared in her review, I promptly looked for the novella online and found that I could read it through the DailyLit site.  I was enchanted by the story very early, continually requested DailyLit to send me the next installment immediately, and finished the story in a day.  It is lovely.  It's such a light, warm-hearted story of a girl's first entrance into the world, full of vim and fire on how she can find her place in it and make it better.  Jerusha writes as an American woman before women had the right to vote (how's that for a stumbling sentence?) and her letters are full of witty repartee about women citizens and her dreams of becoming a writer and her absolute popularity at school.  It's easy to see why she's so popular when she has such a sparkling sense of humor:

Dear Comrade,

Hooray! I'm a Fabian.

That's a Socialist who's willing to wait. We don't want the social revolution to come tomorrow morning; it would be too upsetting. We want it to come very gradually in the distant future, when we shall all be prepared and able to sustain the shock.

In the meantime, we must be getting ready, by instituting industrial, educational and orphan asylum reforms.
Yours, with fraternal love,

But even while she laughs and plays and enjoys herself, Jerusha/Judy is fully aware of the debt she owes the philanthropist who sent her to school, and realizes how different she is from everyone else around her.  Her more introspective letters, talking about how lonely she feels without any friend who really knows her past circumstances, are so touching and well-written:

Half the time I don't know what the girls are talking about; their jokes seem to relate to a past that every one but me has shared. I'm a foreigner in the world and I don't understand the language. It's a miserable feeling. I've had it all my life. At the high school the girls would stand in groups and just look at me. I was queer and different and everybody knew it.

 Even so, Jerusha manages to make friends and keep a smile on her face and become the successful writer she always hoped to be.  Daddy-Long-Legs is a wonderful story about a girl who uses a gift to come into her own, becoming a confident and easy-to-love young woman who serves as a strong role model for any girl.  "I believe absolutely in my own free will and my own power to accomplish-- and that is the belief that moves mountains."

After reading this story, you'll believe in her, too!  I highly recommend this story to anyone who wants to feel warm and fuzzy inside.  It's perfect!  I wish that I had a hard copy of the book to read as, in e-mail format, I missed all the fun illustrations Jerusha put into her letters.  I'm off to read the sequel now!  And many thanks to Ana for bringing this book to my attention!


  1. I'm so glad you loved it too, Aarti! And wow, illustrations by Edward Ardizzone? That's the guy who illustrated A Child's Christmas in Wales, if I'm not mistaken, and I loved his style. I wants that edition!

  2. Between you, you and Nymeth have made me want to read this all over again. I shall have to add it to my ever-growing list of books I want to reread. I do love this book and Judy is such a wonderful character. I'm glad you both enjoyed it.

  3. Anonymous1/14/2010

    Thank you! I wanted this, the library has it up-county, but I'm on an ordering ban. Dilemma resolved!

  4. It is a gorgeous books, isn't it? I shall be reading this one too for the Flashback Challenge.

  5. I love this story - I think it was turned into a film which might be a good watch.

  6. glad you enjoyed it. I have to go and check out that website

  7. I read this when I was younger, but I don't remember much about the story. Guess it's time for a reread!

    I must go check out that website. Sounds pretty cool!

  8. Nymeth is a killer, isn't she?! I end up with wanting to read way to many books by following her blog! And I don't think I've ever regretted one she recommended!

  9. Every review I've seen of this has been positive. I have this (and the sequel I believe) sitting on my shelf in an old leather bound volume. One day I need to pick it up.

  10. Next thing you need to do is pick up Dear Enemy, which I think is even better. I reviewed both books here.

  11. I read Daddy Long-Legs in junior high school, and the sequel, Dear Enemy and loved both - the former more than the latter, though.

    What you may not know is that the stories are somewhat autobiographical (Jean specifically used her experiences at Vasser as the basis of the bood). Sadly her life was cut short when she died in childbirth at age 40. I think that was what ruined Dear Enemy for me - this information was in a biographical note at the end of that book.

  12. Nymeth- Thanks so much for the rec, Ana! I want that edition, too.

    Kerry- It's great to reread books from childhood as an adult. I think you can appreciate the author much more that way- it's nice to see such great characters for kids to read about.

    fleur- Yay! I am fast becoming a DailyLit fangirl. I am reading the sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs on there now.

    Vivienne- I think it would be a great choice for Flashback! If it holds up on a first reading as an adult, it must hold up to a re-read, too.

    Bloomsbury- I saw that! A movie with Fred Astaire, no less. Will have to look into that.

    Blodeuedd- I think it's a great site, Linda, though maybe not with as current books in the paranormal genre you enjoy.

    Hazra- Yes, the website is great!

    Rhapsody- I know, right?! She's such an enabler.

    Amanda- More and more children's books for you to read ;-) Though this may be more a girl book than a boy book, so you can read it without the boys, maybe!

    Lilithcat- I am reading Dear Enemy now, but I don't like it as much, actually. Some of the things Sallie says horrify me.

    Lita- No, I didn't know that. How sad, and what a great loss. I think she has several stories available for download on DailyLit, so I'll be sure to read them all.

  13. Anonymous1/14/2010

    I heard about this on Ana's blog too and quickly added it to my list. It looks great and I", glad you enjoyed it! I have never heard of Dailylit, thanks for bringing me out from under my rock :-)

  14. I just went to Project Gutenberg to see if I could download a copy of DLL (I could) and found some other books by Jean Webster I had never heard of. Does anyone know anything about them?

    It's interesting seeing what people have been saying about Sallie's attitudes in Dear Enemy. I haven't read it since I was a teenager (and that was a LONG time ago), but I don't remember noticing anything like that. I might be even more interesting to reread this one as an adult and see what I think.

    But really, I'd rather visit with Judy.

  15. leaningtowardthesun- I only found out about DailyLit recently, too! But I love it.

    Kerry- I haven't read any of her other stories, so I can't tell you much about them. However, I think if you did read Dear Enemy now, you'd be hit by some of the comments. It's very much a product of its times.

  16. Aarti - Yes, I think I would be too. I don't remember if I noticed when I first read it, but I'm sure I would now. It would be interesting to see. But Daddy-Long-Legs is on the reread list first.

  17. I'm very curious. How did I miss this on Nymeth's (sorry Nymeth!!) Do we ever meet Mr. Long Legs?

  18. Lovely review! I've already fallen in love with this story. I just signed up for this book on dailylit, and also found that my library has a copy of this same book! Yay! Now I'm off to the library tomo!! :)

  19. Anonymous1/14/2010

    I didn't even think of Daily Lit as an option for this one! I was going to wait 'til I had my nook and download it, since my library doesn't have it.

  20. Aw, I'm so glad to see other people reading this! It's been one of my favorites for years - I was finally able to get a proper copy, this and Dear Enemy all in one pretty paperback book. I'm happy you liked it!

  21. Kerry- Good decision!

    Care- If I told you, I'd ruin the surprise!

    Aths- That's great! I hope your library copy has the illustrations in it. I feel like I missed out on a lot not seeing them.

    Jill- I have now started looking for a lot of older books on DailyLit. It's so great! I can only do shorter stories on it, though. They offer War & Peace, too. Good heavens. The subscription for THAT is almost two years!

    Jenny- I think you brought it to Ana's attention in the first place, so thank you!

  22. For that retro cover alone I want to own this book! Great review!

  23. LOL-after Ana's review, I checked my library catalogue and was happy to see that they have this one. And now after your review, I want to grab it asap!

  24. Anonymous1/15/2010

    Your review makes it sounds less sacchrin than the last review I read. I may have to look it up.

  25. Between you and Ana, I'm sold. I've downloaded the Project Gutenberg version to my iPod!

  26. I only recognize this book by title, and had never heard the synopsis before. It sounds like it's a really great and heartwarming read and like something that I could enjoy in a short afternoon. I really liked your review and am thinking about downloading it. I have already subscribed to get The Yellow Wallpaper, but have not yet read it. It's been awhile since I have used Daily Lit, so it's good to have some new recommendations!

  27. Yay! I was interested in this after Nymeth's review and am thrilled to know that I can get it online.

  28. itz such an amazing and wonderful buk.....
    my mom olwez complaints that i'm a i think itz worthy 2 b one, if the books on which i feed...r the ones like daddy long legs.....


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