Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Daddy-Long-Legs" by Jean Webster

Daddy-Long-Legs, first published in 1912, is the pleasant little story of an orphan named Jerusha Abbott. At the age of seventeen, Jerusha (who later renames herself Judy, since that's the sort of name which belongs to a girl "who romps her way through life without any cares," which she would very much like to pretend she is) is given a rare bit of good fortune when she is informed that a mysterious benefactor has offered to pay her way through college.

The only requirement is that she must write regular letters to the man (to whom she gives the nickname Daddy-Long-Legs), though she is not to know his real name, and he never writes back to her. After a short chapter at the beginning which introduces the situation, the entire book is in the form of Judy's letters to the enigmatic Daddy-Long-Legs (with some crazy drawings thrown in).

Judy has a very engaging personality that shines brilliantly through her correspondence. In fact, her disposition is so bright and charming that she seems less like a college girl and more like a twelve-year-old. She's certainly not an always-optimistic Polyanna, but she really seems quite childish, albeit in a funny and endearing way. Here's a great example:

"Speaking of classics, have you ever read Hamlet? If you haven't, do it right off. It's perfectly corking. I've been hearing about Shakespeare all my life, but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation."

Webster should have had Judy going away to boarding school instead of college. Even so, and despite being overly sentimental at times, this is such a nice little story.

The ending was so perfectly, exactly what I wanted that I nearly cried. (Let's be clear, though: notice I said nearly. Which doesn't really count.) It didn't even bother me that I guessed what there was to be guessed long before it was revealed. I was just so happy that that the ending was just right.

There's a sequel! It's called Dear Enemy. And guess what? Amazon has a free kindle version of it. I know better than to think I'll be diving into it right away, but it's nice to have it waiting for me until I'm ready.


Lesa said...

Oh, you know I love vintage books like this!!! Is this a film as well? Seems like I remember a Fred Astaire film of that title and a similar premise-- the girl and benefactor fall in love at the end. I must go wiki this and see if it is the same-- seems like Leslie Carron or Audrey Hepburn was the actress...

I'll be back to report.

Lesa said...

Yes! Yes! There is a film 'loosely based' on the book-- so I'm not losing my mind-- well, in that regard anyway!!

And Leslie Caron was the actress.

Didn't know it was a book, How cool!

I've learned that several great old films were books that I've never heard of-- I want to read them all-- especially the book that the creepy suspense film 'Leave her to heaven' was based on-- If you ever see, nab it for me!!

Brenna said...

I've never heard of this one but it sounds really interesting. I love coming across classics that aren't on my radar.

Kathy said...

Lesa, check this out (or maybe you already have). There have been several film versions--even a Shirley Temple one! But good on you for knowing about one of them (and even who starred in it!!)--I'm impressed! I haven't seen (or even heard of) Leave Her to Heaven--I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Brenna--I hadn't heard about it either, until someone (can't remember who) blogged about it a while back. I was excited when it caught my eye in the library! But, due to the book's title, I wonder if I would have given the book a second glance if I hadn't already heard about the story?

Lesa said...

No, I didn't check that one out-- thanks! There have been a ton of adaptations-- I have seen Curly Top too but didn't make the connection.

Leave her to Heaven plays on the oldie channels occasionally-- keep an eye out for it-- it is about a woman's obsessive love- she is so possessive of her dad that she alienates her sis and mom. the movie starts after his death when she meets and marries a man that reminds her of dear old dad then proceeds to do away with any competition-- and not just other women. She is one scary lady for 1945-- or anytime!

Vintage Reading said...

This has been on my tbr list for a while. After reading your review I'm bringing it forward!

Kathy said...

Lesa--Sounds pretty intense--I have added it to my netflix queue!

Nicola--I bet DLL will be right up your alley! Looking forward to hearing what you think of it.

Kristi said...

I loved this book. The drawings were cracking me up. I loved the quote about Hamlet too. I want to see if I can find Dear Enemy. I wonder if it too has stick figure drawings. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Kathy said...

I'm just guessing here, but I think Dear Enemy probably doesn't have the drawings. You may already know this, but it is written from the perspective of Sallie, Judy's good friend in college. Judy has persuaded Sallie to run the John Grier Home (I think that's the name of it . . . the orphanage, anyway). I think the Enemy is the orphanage's visiting doctor or something like that. Anyway, surely Sallie wouldn't draw pictures like Judy . . . ? If you find a copy, you'll have to let me know if it has drawings--I'm betting there aren't any in my free Kindle version, even if there were some in the original book.

Loraine said...

Nice review :) Here's mine if you don't mind:

Thanks and have a nice day! :D

Kathy said...

I enjoyed reading your post!