Saturday, July 10, 2010

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Daddy Long-Legs is a sweet, wholesome, good, heartwarming book.


On Friday, we had a guest coming in school and talking (its 'Reading Week') and he talked a lot about how as we read more and more we must move to more difficult books to keep up our interest in reading. I think this is quite true. But I also believe that sometimes we must go back a few levels to the books of our childhood, because you can get awfully tired of reading important books with several layers, and subtext, and hidden meanings in every sentence, and once in a while you just want to read a simple, wholesome book (just as when you eat too much gourmet food you sometimes long for home-made food) and Daddy Long-Legs is one of those classics that you can pick up at any age - be it 10, 35, or 70 and still enjoy it for a few hours. So, I recently re-read this book, and I found that it still has the power to make me laugh and cry and sigh.

What is it that makes this book so amazing?

Well, the first thing is the main character - Jerusha Abbott (aka Judy), an orphan who has been sent by a mysterious trustee whom she has never seen to a college in order to become a writer. Jerusha is not perfect. She's impulsive, reckless, vain at times, and quite silly at others. But she is so honest, so genuinely nice, and so crazy and sweet that you can't help but like her. She's a refreshing character. She can be quite stubborn and pig-headed at times, doesn't see so much of what is right in front of her, and can be quite silly, but in the end you will love her for the other qualities that surpass these flaws. I also love the way the author is able to portray her growing up. In many ways this is an bildungsroman novel (a novel about growing up)but it is portrayed in a style so different from many of these that it is remarkable.

For one, it is epistolary (ie, most of the novel is in the form of letters written by Jerusha to her mysterious sponsor) and this is really one of the best parts of this novel. (In fact, the first time I read this book it was the first time I'd read a book like this, ever, and it really made a large impact on my life). Jerusha's little letters, filled with her lives and loves, with little illustrations, are really a joy to read. Webster has really been able to get into the skin of the character and capture the little eccentricities and crazinesses that make Jerusha, and therefore this book is a delight to read. Also, even though Jerusha never receives a single letter from Daddy Long-Legs, the subtle ways in which he shows his concern (and you see them even more on a re-read) are delightful to read about.

The other, minor characters, including Sally McBride, Julia and Jervie Pendleton, (and of course the all-elusive Daddy Long-Legs) are great. They're all also very human, and we see them from Jerusha's admiring (or not so admiring) eyes, and we fall in love with them ourselves. Even little things like horses and cows at a certain farm are part of Jerusha's little world, and for a few happy hours they become part of our world, too. Jerusha's story has the remarkable power of transporting one from complexity of our reality to a fantasy world which is simple, and child-like, and honest, and this is one of the best things about this book.

Final thoughts: This book is must-read for anyone who, like me, gets tired of life's complexities every once in a while. It is also a must-read for all kids, because every kid should have a nice childhood (even Jerusha expresses this in the book) and learn how to be different, and this is a brilliant book to teach them just that. (But maybe in today's day and age most kids will prefer the movie)

Other news:
Still on my re-reading run, I will be borrowing 'A Little Princess' by Francis Hogdson Burnett which I have been trying to find at my house for months now, with no avail. Do you guys have any other recommendations for old, beautiful classics?

Also, I recently saw Dead Poets Society, a brilliant movie on a similar theme as this book, even if it is much more depressing. It is remarkable how important being different is in life - and how much one person can influence a young person.


  1. A very neat, systematic review Sakhi.

    Have your read "The book of tomorrow'? You might want to review it.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks a lot. :)
    I just finished, 'A Little Princess' and now I know why I liked it so much.

    I haven't read the book you mentioned. Who is the author? And what is the genre?

  3. hi! next time i am looking for a book review, i know where to go! u r very focussed on what u do. tc

  4. Hey Restless,
    Thanks so much. Yours words really mean a lot.

  5. Well written review indeed Sakhi!. Do visit us here and read more reviews. Do also consider joining our community of book lovers as a reviewer :)

  6. Hi Booklover,
    I'm really glad you liked the review. :)

  7. Hey Sakhi, this is the first book review I'm reading on your blog and definitely wont be the last. A reviewer myself (I do film reviews and restaurant reviews for a website) I must say your writing style would really impress any editor if you ever wish to go down that path.

    I just finished 100 years of solitude ( a must read for everyone) and was looking for a new book and will take your recommendation and read this one.

    As far as dead poet society goes its one of the best movies I have ever seen. Just puts a lot things into perspective for me.

    Great post. Congrats.

  8. Hi Ajay,
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm really glad you liked my book reviews, and especially that you're going to read a book through one of them (I have recently discovered that this is one of the reasons I write - to get other people to read).

    I will definitely try to read 100 years of solitude.

    And yes, dead poets society was a chilling, beautiful movie. It definitely makes you think.

  9. "a sweet, wholesome, good, heartwarming book" completely agree. Remember reading it many years back and your review brought back the happy feeling that this book had created at that time.

  10. Hi Vibha,
    Agreed. There's no book like this one to make you remember your childhood.

  11. hai dis is joe it is simple and nice!!!!!!!!

  12. its so nice and simple


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