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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Daddy Long-Legs

Ok, so for FOREVER I’ve been wanting to reread all my Tamora Pierce books and craving me some Jane Eyre…And then I found the Read Me Baby, 1 More Time rereading reading challenge hosted by the fabulous Midnight Book Girl.  I signed myself up.  I posted a declaration of intention.

And (dun-da-da-dun) which book did I choose to be my illustrious first reread?  Jane Eyre?  Alanna’s quartet, the quartet the started them all?  Kel’s quartet?

I decided to go with Jean Webster’s Daddy Long-Legs.

Hold up.—Wait—What?!?!???!  That wasn’t one of the choices—Was it?  Where did that come from?!?!?!??

Well, it’s my challenge and I can read what I want to…which was kind of the point of joining in a rereading-reading challenge.  And as much as I was fully intending to devour some Tamora Pierce (still am), and as much as I was looking forward to Jane Eyre (still am).  As soon as I finished posting that challenge post.  When I asked myself where I was going to start, who I was longing for, all of a sudden, a little genie winked into my head and said “Daddy Long-Legs.”  And I said, “Daddy Long-Legs?  Oooh, I haven’t read that in FOREVER.  That does sound good!!!!”  And then the genie also reminded me that, because Daddy Long-Legs is really old, that means it’s in the public domain, which means I got it for FREE as an EBOOK, which means yatzee triple-word-score, it also counts for my 2011 E-Book Challenge hosted by The Ladybug Reads AND my Show Me the Free reading challenge hosted by The Unread Reader!!!!

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So, for anyone who isn’t reading Daddy Long-Legs for the 2nd (or greater) time, you have SO been missing out!!!

Daddy Long-Legs is epistolary novel told through Judy Abbott’s letters to her anonymous benefactor.  Judy (neé) Jerusha was a ward of the John Grier Home, a turn of the century orphanage.  And just as Jerusha was about to be turned out into the world, one of the trustees of the John Grier Home decides to become Jerusha’s benefactor, to send her to college and educate her to be a writer.  He’ll pay her tuition and board, buy her wardrobe, and even give her an allowance.  His only conditions are that his identity remains anonymous, and that Jerusha write him monthly letters, addressing him as Mr. John Smith.  He believes that letter writing is the best way to foster Jerusha’s writing talents.  Jerusha, being an orphan and without any family to encourage such correspondence, Mr. Smith puts himself in the role of her family.  Mr. Smith is a constant contradiction, sponsoring Jerusha, but wanting to have nothing to do with her; asking her to write him, and promising never to read her letters.

But Mr. Smith gets more than he ever bargained for with Jerusha.  She was an orphan, and never expected any of this benevolence—She’d do anything, simply to be able to thank her guardian, and when she is denied this simple act, Jerusha puts her whole heart into the letters she writes him.  And Jerusha Abbott is not content to write to just a name, she wants to write to a real-live person, which is where the name Daddy Long-Legs comes in.  Just before Jerusha gets the news of her scholarship, she happens to glance out a window and sees the long, tall, unfamiliar shadow of a trustee driving away.  This gangly shadow, that reminds her somewhat of a daddy long-legs spider is the only real, true thing that Jerusha knows about her benefactor, so she, rather irreverently, dubs him Daddy Long-Legs.  And thus the story begins.

Jerusha writes of making her first friends, of the classes she attends, the books she reads, of her room, her clothes, her habits, her schedules, of the tiniest little details.  We see Jerusha the orphan become Judy the coed.  We see how her whole world has turned upside down.  This is the first chance that Jerusha has ever had to be a normal girl, and she wants to be normal and fit in, just as much as she wants to excel at her studies and her writing to prove worthy of the amazing opportunity she’s been given.  Judy is such a fresh, energetic, vibrant character that as a reader I can’t help seeing every little thing as eye-opening as she does.

This reread, in particular, I really noticed what a time-capsule this story is for the early 1900s.—It was just on the cusp between horse-drawn buggies and automobiles (with cranks).  It was particularly interesting to note, that even though Judy was being college educated, this was written in 1912 and women did not yet have the vote!

Also interesting to note Judy's vast love of reading, and how some of our classics were her contemporaries; I loved seeing Judy's book collection; after life in the asylum (orphanage), Judy had a lot of reading to catch up on—Mother Goose, David Copperfield, Ivanhoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, and Rudyard KiplingShe says she picks a new favorite every three days!  I also love reading long-lost words, and uncommon turns of phrase, which really do a lot for creating the setting.  And for some extra fun, the book has some really cute drawings that Jerusha uses to illustrate her daily life.

Daddy Long-Legs was just as magical as the first time I read it.  And knowing the ending makes it even more fun to go back and search for clues!  It’s both a classic and a favorite!!!


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