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REVIEW: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

The introduction to a girl’s orphanage in Jean Webster’s Daddy Long Legs gives you a glimpse into the life of a young girl growing up almost like a slave:

The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day–a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste. Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle. Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams; and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say, “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” whenever a Trustee spoke.

Daddy Long Legs – English-Chinese Edition – By John Webster / One Section of the Series of Love and Grown Up

 

Jerusha Abbott (later called Judy) is an orphan at the John Grier Home, which is nothing like loving atmosphere of the orphanage in John Irving’s The Cider House Rules.

Daddy-Long-Legs (Japanese Edition)

Already 18 years old, Judy’s future is uncertain until one day, the matron delivers some good news:

Hearing that she’s a budding writer, a trustee will sponsor her college education and even give her a monthly allowance! However, she has to write him (addressed to a fictitious “John Smith”) a letter every month but he will never reply 🙁

Mystified by these strange conditions, Judy sets herself to be a good student at college and dedicates her time well in writing her monthly updates to her trustee.

One day, she catches a glimpse of his tall, sinewy shadow or silhouette and starts calling him “Daddy-Long-Legs” instead.

The book is filled with Judy’s description of life at college, some amusing and some not so especially when she remembers her shabby background.

Her letters to “Daddy-Long-Legs” fill up a good portion of her book, including cute stick drawings 🙂

I could relate to Judy when I read the book because:

  • I loved to write letters;
  • I had a kind uncle who’d buy me things a young girl loved (who couldn’t afford them) e.g. pretty stationery, cool sneakers, cool t-shirts, books etc and
  • I also had strange and sometimes unfortunate escapades when I was a kid.

Daddy-Long-Legs” is definitely one of my favorite books (read and re-read many times!) and reading Jean Webster’s biography, she’s my sort of heroine too! Daddy-Long-Legs was not only a successful piece of fiction but also a stimulus to reform the institutional treatment of orphans.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Josette May 17, 2009, 11:17 am

    Interesting info on Jean Webster. I haven’t read Dear Enemy yet – will get to that later. Is it still Judy who’s writing the letters?

  • Kit May 22, 2009, 7:28 am

    Josette – Gee…I can’t remember what “Dear Enemy” is about as I read it ages ago. But I think it’s also a book of “letter writing” and it’s a funny one 🙂

  • 6020forsythe October 8, 2010, 3:21 pm

    PLEASE EXCUSE UPPER CASE USED FOR REASONS OF SIGHT AND NOT EMPHASIS:
    TWO GENERATIONS OF MY FAMILY HAVE ENJOYED THIS BOOK, AND WE ARE STARTING ON A THIRD.
    SALLY, A ROOMMATE OF JUDY IS “MESMORIZED” INTO
    TAKING CHARGE OF THE.”JOHN GRIER HOME”(WHERE JUDY WAS “RAISED”. SHE PROTESTS, THAT SHE IS A SILLY SOCIALITE WITH RED HAIR WHO WILL NOT BE UP TO THE TASK. HOWEVER, AS THE STORY UNFOLDS WE
    FIND HER TRUE METTLE. I WILL NOT WRITE A SPOILER.
    HOWEVER, I LOVED THIS BOOK AS A YOUNG GIRL.
    AND WHILE WE ARE AT IT, WHY HAS NO ONE EVER DONE A PROPER SECOND FILM VERSION OF,” DADDY LONG LEGS”. AND WHY HAS NO ONE EVER ATTEMPTED A MOVIE OF DEAD ENEMY. I AM READING THE FIRST TO MY GRANDDAUGHTER, AND IN A FEW MONTHS WILL BEGIN THE SECOND. SHE IS TEN AND CAN READ BY HERSELF, BUT STILL LIKES THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING READ TO.
    “MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU”
    SORRY THIS IS A SAYING THAT MY THE WHOLE FAMILY
    USES BECAUSE MY TWO BOYS LOVED AND STILL LOVE
    STAR WARS. HOWEVER, TRY THAT I MIGHT I COULD NEVER GET THEM INTERESTED IN THE AFORESAID MENTIONED BOOKS.

  • 6020forsythe October 8, 2010, 3:27 pm

    SORRY, I NEED TO MAKE A COMMENT ON MY OWN REVEIW. I OBVIOUSLY MEANT “DEAR ENEMY”, AND ” DADDY LONG LEGS”. ONE OF THE PROBLEMS I FIND WITH WRITING A COMMENT IS THAT IT DISAPPEARS BEFORE I CAN PROOF READ IT. IF SOMEONE HAS SUGGESIONS OR GUIDANCE THEY WOULD BE GRATEFULLY APPRECIATIED.
    P.S. AS A FOOT NOTE JEAN WEBSTER; THE AUTHORESS, WAS A FABIAN SOCIALIST. SHE WROTE THESE BOOKS FOR TWO REASONS. AS TALES FOR ALL; AND AS SOCIALIST TRACTS. SHE DIED TOO YOUNG GIVING BIRTH TO HER ONLY CHILD: A DAUGHTER.

  • Kit October 11, 2010, 12:09 pm

    6020forsythe – Wow, three generations of Judy Webster fans is an excellent achievement!

    While my grandfather, my father and I love reading, I’m not sure if we like any particular author – I can only think of The Reader’s Digest being a shared interest 😀

    Interesting bit about her books being Socialist tracts. The previous centuries never fail to surprise me with allegories, hidden messages and etc.

    Since Jean Webster’s books feature girls as the central figures both on their covers and plots, it WILL be hard to convince a boy to pick them up unless it’s part of a reading list at school.

    Do your Star Wars fans read at all? I hope they do because I’m a huge Star Wars fan myself 😀