Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster

Daddy-Long-Legs - Jean Webster, Eva Ibbotson

How had I never come across this book before!? This was a wonderful, fun read. I wish I had read this as a young adult as I think I would have enjoyed it even more. 


The book is told from the POV of Jerusha Abbott, a seventeen year old orphan who, up until this point, has lived her entire life at the John Grier Home for orphans. In the opening, a narrator informs us that an unnamed trustee of the orphanage has offered to send Jerusha to college on the conditions that she doesn't know who he is and she writes him a letter every month (but he will never write her back).


The rest of the book is written in epistolary form as Jerusha fulfills her side of the agreement and writes to her unknown benefactor. She calls him Daddy Long Legs based on the one time she saw his elongated shadow.


Jerusha's voice is fresh, fun and light, making it entertaining as she relates even the mundane aspects of her life. One day her letter would include questions that she knows he'll never answer, another day the letter would be written in a 17th century style of speaking she's learning in class. The style of writing would frequently change reflecting Jerusha's different moods on any given day, giving her character a new complexity, as well as keeping the story new and interesting. My only complaint is that she almost sounded a little too young. Her familiar and joking tone sometimes sounded more like a thirteen or fourteen year old rather than seventeen. The book covers her entire college experience so by the end she is twenty-one/two and has started to sound a little older, but that is also probably partly due to the more mature topics she started writing about. 


Regardless, I was surprised by how entertained and engaged I was in the story when nothing really exciting even happened. There were no twists and turns in the story, just one girl enjoying her college experience and growing as a person. It's definitely a credit to the writing in that respect. I even guessed who the unknown benefactor was about half way through and still enjoyed the entire ride. I would have wished for a little more information at the end from said benefactor, like his motives for putting Jerusha through school, but the the last letter is from Jerusha after she finds out and it was somewhat light on the details. 


Still, an incredibly well done, enjoyable book. It's nice to read a book one in a while for it's superior writing rather than a completely plot driven story. I plan to follow up with the sequel which focuses on Jerusha's friend Sallie.