Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (1912)
I don't think you will be able to guess what this book is about just by looking at the title!
It's a lovely story, and it's a surprise love story, but you won't realize who loves who until you get right to the very end. In the beginning, it is a series of letters, written by an American orphan girl, really just on the brink of womanhood. When we first meet Judy Abbott she is seventeen years old and still living in the John Grier Home for Orphans. She has done well at the local high school and one of the trustees of the orphanage offers to pay for her to go to college. But he insists on anonymity. All he asks is that she write a letter to him once a month to let him know of her progress through college. She is to address him as John Smith, and she is to expect no reply. So, you see, it is a rather one-sided correspondence!
Well, how would you feel if you had lived all your life without any family of your own and without anyone showing the slightest interest in you, and suddenly, quite out of the blue, someone started to shower you with kindness? I expect, like Judy, you would be desperate to know more about your mysterious benefactor:
I wish you'd come and take tea some day and let me see if I like you. But wouldn't it be dreadful if I didn't? However, I know I should.
Judy has a wonderful time at college. She makes new friends and studies many subjects that are entirely new to her. To begin with though she feels very strange and isolated because she has so little in common with the other girls:
I have a new unbreakable rule: never, never to study at night no matter how many written reviews are coming up in the morning. Instead, I read just plain books - I have to, you know, because there are eighteen blank years behind me. You wouldn't believe, Daddy, what an abyss of ignorance my mind is; I am just realizing the depths myself. The things that most girls with a properly assorted family and a home and friends and a library know by absorption, I have never heard of.
Of course, over the years of her study at college Judy grows into a lively and attractive young woman who takes enormous delight in the little pleasures of ordinary life. It's easy to see why Jervis Pendleton, her rich room-mate's uncle, finds her company so enjoyable. And it's easy to see why Jimmy McBride finds her fun to be with too. He's the brother of her other room-mate. And do you want to know who she falls in love with? You will have to read the book then. It's such a sweet finish. I would hate to spoil it for you!
I loved this book. It's very quick and easy to read because of the letter format. And it's a charming story!
What can I read next?
Although it is set in a different time period, Daddy-Long-Legs reminds me very strongly of the two books by Virginia Euwer Wolff, I think because they also take the form of a monologue by a young girl who is trying to think life through for herself. Have a look at these:
You might be interested in this trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland. It has a historical setting and, like Judy Abbott, the young Arthur has many queries in his life:
- Arthur: The Seeing Stone
- Arthur: At the Crossing Places
- Arthur: King of the Middle March
Or if you simply enjoy historical stories you could look at this one by Jamila Gavin. It is much more serious than Daddy-Long-Legs though!:
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- The Friends by Rosa Guy (Score: 86%)
- Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay (Score: 86%)
- True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Score: 82%)
- Dead Gorgeous by Malorie Blackman (Score: 82%)
- Lizzie Dripping by Helen Cresswell (Score: 82%)
Daddy-Long-Legs features in these lists: