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I have to say I do love epistolary novels. It's a difficult way to tell a story so there aren't that many good ones around, but DADDY LONG LEGS, the Jean Webster novel written in 1912, is a classic of the genre. (If this style of writing can be called a genre.)
My Penguin copy has an introduction written by Elaine Showalter:
...one of the truly modern qualities of Webster's writing is its lack of sentimentality and preachiness. Although her heroine[s] Judy and Sallie are idealistic reformers, they are also irreverent and irrepressible; although they are staunch feminists, they also take great pleasure in kid gloves, new dresses, and male company. The epistolary format of these two novels (Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy) allows the liveliness of women's letter-writing to cloak the radical notions of women's limitless strength and capability.
When Jerusha 'Judy' Abbott is plucked from the orphanage where she's spent her entire life and sent off to college, she is thrust into a new and very unfamiliar world. Her sponsor is a wealthy man who insists that she must write him once a month but she is never to know his real name nor will he acknowledge her letters.
From the first achingly lonely letters to her 'Dear Daddy Long Legs' - often decorated with her own drawings - we get to know, over the next four years, the interior workings of Jerusha (now called Judy), the vivacious, intelligent, endearingly self-possessed young woman and would-be writer who will steal not only her benefactor's heart but ours as well.
I love this book and re-read it just last night on the fly. It's a quick read, a fun way to spend an evening. Developing a story entirely in letters only from one point of view - since Daddy Long Legs never responds until the very end - can't have been an easy thing to do and yet Jean Webster makes it look effortless. It's as natural as if you'd happened upon a cache of letters and began reading them and got caught up in the story of an awkward girl growing into womanhood right before your very eyes. Amazingly, it's all there in the letters.
Jean Webster's novel was also turned into a stage play as well as the musical film, DADDLY LONG LEGS (1955) starring Fred Astaire (who seems a natural for the part of Daddy Long Legs) and Leslie Caron.
I read this one sometimes in the 1960s and thought it was greta, but haven't read it since. Thanks for the review, now I want to reread it.ReplyDelete
Richard: It's just a quick read that you can sneak it in between other books - no problem. That's what i did. :)ReplyDelete
And there's a sort of sequel, Dear Enemy, where Judy's friend Sally McBride gets to take over the orphanage. Also epistolary, and just as much fun.ReplyDelete
Becky: Yes, I have that as well. I'm going to sneak that in between some other books soon. :)ReplyDelete
As you know, I LOVED this book! It's become one of my favorites, it brought happy tears to my eyes at the end!ReplyDelete
Julie: I loved it too. It made me misty as well. :)ReplyDelete
But it's never really falsely sentimental - is it? It's just right.
Sits proudly on my shelf.ReplyDelete
Mine too. ;)ReplyDelete
Such a terrific book.
Well, I DON´T like epistolary novels, but a friend lent me this one when I was a teenager, and I have to admit it was ever so charming ;)ReplyDelete
Dorte: Now there's a good friend. :)ReplyDelete
A couple of other epistolary novels you might like:
84 CHARING CROSS
THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS (only partially epistolary) By Michael Gruber
Wonderful book. One of the joys of my teenaged reading.ReplyDelete
Wow! I didn't know this was a book first. I only knew about the movie with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, which I remember so fondly -- although I haven't seen it in decades.ReplyDelete
I may check out the book but this reminds me to rewatch the movie.
Remember reading it many a summer ago along with my sisters. Your review brought back memories of those days.ReplyDelete
Terrie: This book seems to have been a favorite of many different readers. It's a great memory to share. :)ReplyDelete
Kathy: You should definitely read the book. It's a short read, more like a novella really. It's wonderful.ReplyDelete
neer: I'm glad. This is turning into a nice shared memory for all of us. It is such a memorable book even though it's not a heavyweight literary thing at all. :)ReplyDelete
Written in 1912, but it's still the sort of emotional thing we can respond to even in this modern age.
1912: My Dad's birth year.ReplyDelete
Very nostalgia to think of a book written that year that has held the test of time, and been made into such a pleasant movie.
Now that you mention it, Kathy. I think that was my father's birth year also. He lived to 89. Well, more or less.ReplyDelete
A pretty good year. :)
Yvette, I don't have as much reading time as I'd like, but I loved your review of the original book version of DADDY LONG LEGS, and it's quite charming! And "NYAH!" to jerks who think it sounds creepy; if Cary Grant could charm Audrey Hepburn in CHARADE, so can Fred Astaire in DADDY LONG LEGS! Now I'm going to read your review of the movie! :-DReplyDelete
Awesome review :) Here's mine if you don't mind: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2013/12/daddy-long-legs-by-jean-webster.htmlReplyDelete
Thanks and have a nice day! :D