Daddy-Long-Legs – Jean Webster

Published September 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

When Jerusha Abbott, an eighteen-year-old girl living in an orphan asylum, was told that a mysterious millionaire had agreed to pay for her education, it was like a dream come true. For the first time in her life, she had someone she could pretend was “family.”
But everything was not perfect, for he chose to remain anonymous and asked that she only write him concerning her progress in school.
Who was this mysterious gentleman and would Jerusha ever meet him?

What did I think?:

I had never heard of this classic book until my fellow blogger and sister Chrissi Reads recommended it to me after having been recommend it herself by another friend. Oh my goodness, how did I miss this though? It was utterly charming, sweet and so uplifting that it’s definitely made its way onto my “favourites” pile and I can easily imagine reading and re-reading it again. Written in 1912 by Jean Webster (who was actually Mark Twain’s niece, literary fact lovers!) Daddy Long Legs is the story of a young orphan Jerusha (Judy) who at the opening of the novel, lives in an orphanage and helps take care of the younger children. One day, she is called into a room and told that a mysterious rich benefactor has offered to pay the costs of sending her to college on the basis of a rather humorous piece of writing she had done about the orphanage, something the owners weren’t too happy about! His only stipulation is that Judy should write to him from time to time to let him know how she is getting on and that he wanted to remain anonymous.

Judy is thrilled beyond belief that she gets the opportunity to further herself, something she would never have dreamed possible without a family of her own. She decides to christen her benefactor Daddy Long Legs after the only thing she saw of him – a shadow on a wall that appeared to have rather long legs. The novel is structured around Judy’s letters to Daddy, many of which had me laughing out loud, here are just a few examples:

“I’m going on with biology again this year–very interesting subject; we’re studying the alimentary system at present. You should see how sweet a cross-section of the duodenum of a cat is under the microscope.”

“Dear Mr. Rich-Man,

Here’s your cheque for fifty dollars. Thank you very much, but I do not feel that I can keep it. My allowance is sufficient to afford all of the hats that I need. I am sorry that I wrote all that silly stuff about the millinery shop; it’s just that I had never seen anything like it before.

However, I wasn’t begging! And I would rather not accept any more charity than I have to.

Sincerely yours,

Jerusha Abbott”

“I saw a street car conductor today with one brown eye and one blue. Wouldn’t he make a nice villain for a detective story?”

Judy is one of the most fantastic and endearing characters that I’ve ever had the privilege to read about. She’s like all my literary heroines rolled into one – a lovely mixture of Anne Shirley, Jo March, Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett and I loved her eccentric little post-scripts she often puts on her letters like the one above about the street car conductor, it’s almost as if her writing is a stream of consciousness that she cannot keep under control and must say immediately. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly but is tender-hearted and easily manages to make friends while studying one of which leads her to the love of her life, Jervis Pendleton. She is passionate with strong morals and ideals, stubborn and very independent and discovers a whole new world of philosophy, socialism, poetry and classic novels. The only reason she accepted Daddy Long Legs’ offer was so that she could pay every penny back one day when she is a rich and famous author and she is so determined that we all believe she can do it (including Daddy Long Legs). She is also courageous with a wry sense of humour and is not afraid to let him know when he has been in the wrong or refusing money of his for things that she does not need but are merely vanities i.e. hats.

I loved everything about this book and I’m so glad that I’ve discovered it now but even if I had read it in childhood I would still have been a fan. Even though it was written over a century ago I still think it holds a wonderful appeal and it’s a story I wouldn’t hesitate to buy for my own daughter if I had one. I wasn’t expecting this to be a romantic novel so the romance took me a bit by surprise to be honest but left me with a warm glow at the end. The other parts are written with such wicked humour and elegance that I’m sure no-one could fail to fall in love with Judy or Daddy Long Legs (or both) by the time it ends. It was a huge surprise for me so now I’m shouting its merits out from the rooftops in hope that there’s other people like me out there who were unaware of its existence but infinitely happy after reading it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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3 comments on “Daddy-Long-Legs – Jean Webster

  • Oh oh this is one of my VERY FAVORITES. Honestly, I was nervous to read your review… I’m always scared people won’t appreciate my most beloved books!! So I was quite excited to see that you loved it, too! 🙂

    You must MUST read the sequel to this book, ‘Dear Enemy.’ It is absolutely brilliant, and I think that I may love it even more than DLL! In ‘Dear Enemy’, Judy’s friend Sallie is persuaded by Jervis and Judy, who now own Judy’s old orphanage, to take over the management of said orphanage. I’m not sure if it’s because Sallie’s little love story really struck a chord with me, or simply because Sallie is an adult, rather than young adult, heroine – or maybe just the heartrending yet loving discussion of how orphans were treated and cared for – whatever it is, ‘Dear Enemy’ is genuinely one of my top ten books EVER, and a must read for anyone who loved DLL!!!!!

    PS I think it’s in print?? I actually have a battered first edition I picked up for $1.00 at a book sale! I almost died from happiness.

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