You may or may not remember that I reread Jean Webster’s Daddy Long-Legs not too long ago. Well, I couldn’t reread Daddy Long-Legs without having to reread Dear Enemy along with it!
Daddy Long-Legs was one of those books that I picked out from the Scholastic order forms, way back in grade school. It wasn’t until much later, I think when I was home on break from college, that I discovered Dear Enemy. In fact, I almost didn’t—And if I had been minding my own business, I certainly never would have!!! I happened to be browsing the shelves of the local cigar/bookstore, when I overheard another customer mention Daddy Long-Legs to the sales clerk. My ears perk up whenever I hear people start talking about good books—especially about a childhood favorite!!! But when I heard “sequel,” well, I just couldn’t help myself—This was certainly news to me!!! I quickly ascertained the title (Dear Enemy), and I had to have it RIGHT AWAY. Except for one tiny little glitch: The bookstore didn’t have it. Neither did the other bookstore. Or anywhere, for that matter. Because it was OUT. OF. PRINT. One of the most undesirable phrases a booklover can ever hear. :(
Of course, I didn’t give up. I was starting to get savvy about this whole “internet” thing, and started looking to see if I could find it online somewhere. Of course, I never thought I’d find the entire text online, available to read—Not stolen, or anything illicit, but a simple matter of public domain. Incidentally, I have come to <3 the phrase “public domain.”
Mind you, this was still LONG before ereaders. So thank goodness Dear Enemy isn’t a terribly long book, because it was just me and my computer screen.
The first time I read Jean Webster's Dear Enemy, I enjoyed it, but remember it wasn’t exactly what I expected, either. I think I expected it to be more of a sequel, a continuation of Judy’s story, from Daddy Long-Legs. But instead I found it to be more of a companion novel, told from the viewpoint of one of Judy’s college roommates—Sallie. But by way of Sallie McBride, I did get some updates on what happened to Judy, and I ended up really enjoying the story.
Dear Enemy, like Daddy Long-Legs, is told in an epistolary style, through the letters of Sallie McBride as she writes to her old friend Judy Abbot, and also to her new enemy, Dr. Robin MacRae. Judy has set to Sallie the task of reforming Judy’s childhood home—The John Grier Home for Boys and Girls. Sallie reluctantly takes on the job of Superintendant, but is ever-ready to hand it back. But until a suitable replacement can be found, Sallie is determined to do the best she can—even if it means alienating her entire staff, along with the surly Doctor.
Knowing what to expect, I think I enjoyed Sallie’s story much more as I reread it, comparing and contrasting her character with Judy’s. Judy and Sallie both possess a certain whimsy and flightiness in their attitudes, but the main difference comes from their backgrounds, which clearly colors their perspectives. Judy grew up in a dour orphanage, so when a mysterious benefactor appears, it’s as if all her dreams have come true. Afterwards, Judy’s outlook always seems to carry with it a gratitude for all the good things she enjoys, and life, in general. Meanwhile, Sallie comes from a hovering family and a very comfortable background. Sallie has never really had to do without, or to make do, before, and is definitely hit with a bit of culture shock upon entering The John Grier Home. Not only that, but her supportive family, and her prospective husband are suddenly not-so-supportive of Sallie’s initiative. She’s had everything handed to her for most of her life, and now finds herself fighting for something she’s not even sure she wants.
I especially love the sense of history that comes with reading older books. Dear Enemy was written and is set in the early 1900s, and just brims with nostalgia. Some of my favorite parts are the glimpses of life back then; the introduction of the automobile mixed with horses and buggies; the combination of letters and telegrams, along with the telephone; women’s roles, standing up to men, going to college, and even a divorce—all before women won the right to vote!!! And as a reader, I particularly love seeing the differences in language, both in writing and speaking styles. Dear Enemy is a light, fun read both by itself, or as a companion novel to Daddy Long-Legs!!!