Author: Jean Webster
I read this in e-book format via DailyLit.
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:
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!