Title: Daddy Long-Legs
Author: Jean Webster
Year Published: 1912 (I am reading this book a good 100 years after it was published. Amazing!)
My Rating: 2 on 5
Daddy Long-Legs is about an orphan girl, Jerusha Judy Abbott, who is being brought up in John Grier Home for orphans. Her life takes a turn when one of the trustees of the orphanage offer her to pay her college fees. Her benefactor chooses to remain anonymous to Jerusha and his only condition is that she should update him regularly about her progress in college through letters.
On a routine day, Jerusha is called to the matron’s office and is informed that she is being sent to college by a kind-hearted trustee. The trustee is impressed by an article Jerusha wrote and wants her to study to become a writer. He wants to hide his identity from Jerusha, but she manages to get a glimpse of her benefactor – a disproportionate shadow of his, with unusually long legs. Jerusha decides to address her benefactor as Daddy Long-Legs.
Jerusha finds herself in a free life, far away from the clutches of the orphanage’s matron. She strives to keep up with the activities and conversation that girls have around her but is constantly reminded that she did not have a ‘normal life’ in the orphanage. She makes new friends, learns new subjects and thoroughly enjoys the unexpected freedom given to her. Her journey through the college is revealed to the reader only through her letters addressed to Daddy Long-Legs.
It’s hard to make an epistolary novel work. The writer has only the letters to show what’s going on in fictitious world. He/She has to have a knack of including some information in the letter just for the reader and make it look like it was not intentional. Also, building characters becomes difficult because you can’t really describe the appearance and actions of a character. This book barely works on that front. Jerusha comes across as a vibrant, bubbly girl and she is the only character who comes alive. We know the benefactor only through Jerusha’s letters, so he remains in the dark. The matron is your tyrannical woman, which is nothing new. I would like to see a warm matron some day! Jerusha’s letters are lively and funny – she uses an informal tone and includes humorous bits which keeps the reader hooked. She draws portraits of herself and the life around her which brings a chuckle or two. This book was recommended to me as a good book in humor genre and I am disappointed because there is not much of humor in there. It’s a nice, little book which you can use as a filler, but there is nothing in the book that makes it memorable.
The book was made into a play and movies in many languages. The book looks well appreciated, so it’s probably me who didn’t find anything special about it. What I did like about the book is the dedication page. This book is dedicated ‘To You’. Now, how many books are there which are dedicated to the reader, huh?
The book is in public domain and is available for free on gutenberg.