Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Publisher: Public domain
Number of pages: 192
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon Kindle Store
The oldest at a dreary home for foundlings, Judy Abbott finds her life completely changed when, with the help of a mysterious benefactor, she is granted her wish to be able to go to college. A meeting with the rich, handsome uncle of her snobbish roommate sets Judy on the road to discovering her secret friend.
* * *
In my quest to find more classics to read and catch up with my classics reading challenge, I stumbled upon Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster in Goodreads. I remember seeing a review of this somewhere there, too, and seeing it had a lot of favorable reviews, I decided to download it for free from the Kindle store.
The reviews have told me enough to know that a cartoon was based on this book. It’s vaguely familiar, but I really cannot remember much of it, save for the main character, Judy, who reminds me of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables:
I think this started airing when I was already in school so I hardly had the time to watch it, which also probably explains that why my memory of this cartoon is choppy at best.
Anyway, I decided to read this short book last week, because I needed something light to make my brain recover from all the crazy writing madness in NaNoWriMo. Daddy-Long-Legs is the story of Jerusha Abbott, later known as Judy, the oldest orphan in John Grier Home who was sent to college by an anonymous Trustee. The only condition that she needs to fulfill as “payment” for the education was for her to write letters about her studies to a certain Mr. John Smith. She calls this mysterious benefactor “Daddy Long Legs” because the only thing she knew about him was he was a tall person based on his shadow:
What follows is Judy’s letters to Daddy Long Legs for the next four years of college, telling him of her lessons, her dorm room and her decorations (like desk name plates), her friends joyful Sally and snobbish Julie, her college adventures, her summers spent at Lock Willow farm and even some kind of romance. In the midst of all these, Judy gets frustrated with the mysteriousness and the distance that Daddy Long Legs has put between them, and she yearns to know more about this man who had noticed her and helped her out of the kindness of his heart.
So all reviews I read about this book are right: Daddy-Long-Legs is such a refreshing read. This thin volume is brimming with charm and honesty that I can only remember from, yes, Anne of Green Gables. Judy is such a charming narrator and her stories are so easy to relate to. Her letters are filled with wit and interesting stuff that I wondered why Daddy Long Legs lasted that long not replying to her. Case in point:
You never answered my question and it was very important.
ARE YOU BALD?
I think I liked Judy a lot because she reminded me so much of myself. She was never too nice, nor was she especially mean. She recognizes that she can be mean at times, especially when she gets frustrated or annoyed by other people or with herself. Most of her letters were introspective at most, and they’re really the things that friends share with each other over long talks. Here are some memorable passages:
I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination. It makes people able to put themselves in other people’s places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. It ought to be cultivated in children. But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared. Duty was the one quality that was encouraged. I don’t think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it’s odious, detestable. They ought to do everything from love.
She seemed to be channeling Anne Shirley there, don’t you think?
It isn’t the great big pleasures that count the most; it’s making a great deal out of the little ones — I’ve discovered the true secret of happiness, Daddy, and that is to live in the now. not to be for ever regretting the past, or anticipating the future; but to get the most that you can out of this very instant.
I especially loved it when she waxed poetic about books and writing — it was almost like I’m a girl after her own heart. :)
I look forward all day to evening, and then I put an ‘engaged’ on the door and get into my nice red bath robe and furry slippers and pile all cushions behind me on the couch, and light the brass student lamp at my elbow and read and read and read one book isn’t enough.
There is even a little bit of romance in the book that was cute. And of course, Judy excels in writing about them, too:
…and I miss him, and miss him, and miss him. The whole world seems empty and aching. I hate the moonlight because it’s beautiful and he isn’t here to see it with me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t really surprised when the mysterious Daddy Long Legs was finally revealed, and that is probably because of all the reviews I’ve read. Don’t worry, if you’ve read this far in my review, I’ve taken care not to spoil anything (at least, I don’t think I’ve written anything obvious :P). The revelation was cute since it was still written in Judy’s point of view, and I think it ties up the book quite nicely.
So if the all the random babble I wrote above hasn’t convinced you enough, let me say it again: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is a cute and charming book. I’m very glad I chose this book to read during my post-NaNo recovery time. :)
The Book Smugglers