Daddy-Long-Legs & Dear Enemy by Jean Webster
These books have had many, many covers throughout the years, but this is my favorite.
One of the great novels of American girlhood, Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long- Legs (1912) follows the adventures of an orphan named Judy Abbott, whose letters to her anonymous male benefactor trace her development as an independent thinker and writer. Its sequel, Dear Enemy (1915), also told in letters, follows the progress of Judy’s former orphanage now run by her friend Sallie McBride, who struggles to give her young charges hope and a new life. Full of irrepressible female characters that both recall Alcott’s Jo March and anticipate the popular heroines of contemporary literature, Webster’s novels are witty, heartfelt, and delightfully modern.
These two are a complete duology, although one could conceivably read them as standalones as well.
Webster writes with the old-fashioned charm and sweet humor of the Anne books, though she adds in a generous dash of social commentary that Montgomery never did.
Webster did her own illustrations in the book, and they are charming! I can’t understand why more cover designers didn’t just incorporate her illustrations. Instead, you get awful things like this:
I mean, really.
Feminism & Social Commentary! Judy and Sallie are educated young ladies, who feel free to tell the men in their lives when they are being ridiculous, or need to check their privilege. Not that they use those words: both of them are fans of sly, witty remarks.
The “enemy” of the title in the second book is a proponent of eugenics. It is explained pretty well why he is, but Sallie still basically tells him he’s full of crap. Good for her.
Sweet, charming, funny, fairly short, cute illustrations….and you can buy very cheap ebook editions. There’s not really a reason why you should not give these a try, unless you abhor any and all historical fiction. I plan to work my way through all of Jean Webster’s (sadly small) oeuvre over the next couple months, because she’s got such a light, breezy, fun style.
I got the free ebook edition of Daddy-Long-Legs on Amazon. DO NOT DO THIS. The illustrations are omitted, and the formatting’s all wonky. You should instead buy the 99c one. I ended up buying a first edition of Daddy-Long-Legs when it came into my store. I also own a digital edition of Dear Enemy.