Jean Webster

Short, sweet, and witty, Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs was the 1912 equivalent of Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries books. Webster's heroine, 18-year-old orphan Judy Abbott, is stunned to discover that a mysterious benefactor has offered to send her to college. Her unknown fairy godparent has only one requirement: she is to send him a letter every month, describing her progress. After the first chapter, the rest of the novel is told entirely through Judy's letters to her benefactor, describing her experiences at school, her new friends, and an unexpected romance.

Judy's voice is so contemporary that I'm always surprised by how old this book is. Unlike the melodramatic (but still awesome!) books by fellow early 20th century writers Frances Hodges Burnett or L. M. Montgomery, Daddy-Long-Legs just skips along, radiating wit and charm. The sequel, 1915's Dear Enemy, is more dated (thanks to some rather startling early medical and psychological theories) but it shares Daddy-Long-Legs's sweetness and humor. Happily, e-texts of both novels are available on the Internet for FREE here, although they are sans illustrations.

Note: Jean Webster was Mark Twain's grand-niece.

Note #2: SPOILER WARNING: Like the heroine of Dear Enemy, Miss Webster fell in love with a man who was already saddled with a mentally ill wife. The guy eventually divorced his first wife and married Jean, but their time together was short. Jean died a year after they were married, due to complications from giving birth.

None. I mean it about those dated medical ideas in Dear Enemy, though--yikes.

Everywhere. If you're not into reading novels online, there is also a Dover Thrift edition of Daddy-Long-Legs.

Other Recommendations:
The Princess Diaries series, by Meg Cabot

Sorcery and Cecelia, by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede
Posted by: Julia


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