Second win!

Dear Enemy - Jean Webster

In my second round of "Kindle Roulette" I managed to pick another winner!

 

*Maybe this is how I should make all of my decisions*

 

*maybe not*

 

Anyway, this book is the sequel to Daddy Long Legs (possibly can be read as a standalone, but I wouldn't recommend it), both published in the early 1910's. So it's not filled with sex and doesn't rely on sensationalism. It's just a well told story. And funny. The humor from the turn of last century might be a little more sophisticated, but it still resonates with a modern reader. As long as you like really dry humor. And can get past some political incorrectness. Not a lot, but as long as you keep in mind when this was written, you can get past it. 

 

Like DLL it is written entirely in epistolary form, and like Judy in DLL, Sallie (our narrator) has a young, fresh and fun voice. She writes predominately to Judy, having just been appointed by Judy and her husband as the superintend of the John Grier orphanage (where Judy grew up and her husband is the trustee/president). Despite having been born into luxury herself, Sallie is kind and compassionate. Though she starts off as more frivolous, from working at the Home, she comes to love the kids and finds her true path in life. Characterizations of the different characters come out more in the stories that Sallie tells rather than in us being told anything (because Sallie's descriptions are always clearly prejudiced anyway). But its easy to separate Sallie's opinions from the true characterizations of everyone.

 

As Sallie learns the ropes of the John Grier Home she has help from the local Dr. McRae, who she immediately doesn't get along with - Sallie being free and open and fun and Dr. McRae being more formal and stoic. As Sallie says she cannot trust a man who never smiles. She takes to calling him Sandy (not totally sure why - I think this is some reference that I don't understand) and Enemy. There's a much larger cast of characters as well including many of the children and staff of the orphanage, the trustees, old friends and family and the locals. All vastly entertaining. 

 

My one criticism would be the author's writing of accents. Sallie loved to try to imitate the doctor's Scotch accent, and sometimes adopt an Irish one herself, and it was incomprehensible to me. I understood maybe every other word. Sometimes less.

 

But bottom like, like DDL, what really drove the story were Sallie's entertaining interpretation of events and life. And her just deadpan one liners.

 

"And also, no matter what the doctor wants, so positive and dictatorial is his manner that just out of self respect one must take the other side."

 

"The more I study men, the more I realize that they are nothing in the world but boys grown too big to be spankable."

 

"I do wish that mice and snakes and toads and angleworms were not so portable. You never know what is going on in a perfectly respectable-looking child's pocket."

 

"Suppose that I should retire and marry and have a family. As families go nowadays, I couldn't hope for more than five or six children at the most, and all with the same heredity. But mercy, such a family appears perfectly insignificant and monotonous. You have institutionalized me. Reproachfully yours, Sallie McBride."