Sunday, November 23, 2008

"All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come."*

When I was what is these days called a “tween,” I was enamored of orphan stories. Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Sarah Crewe and Mary Lennox and Pollyanna and Rose Campbell and Elizabeth Ann Putney. But much as I adored each and every one of these poor, parentless girls, my all-time favorite was Judy Abbott, of Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs. Judy is plucked from an orphanage and sent to college where she wholeheartedly enjoys her studies and living life as a normal girl. Her education is paid for by a rich benefactor, one of the trustees of the orphanage, and in return she is obliged to write a duty letter occasionally, informing him of her progress in her studies. Instead, Judy enthusiastically adopts said trustee, pretending he is an elderly uncle, and writes him amusing, anecdotal letters (accompanied by adorable little sketches) about everything she is doing and learning and loving. These letters comprise the book Daddy Long Legs (the nickname is what she affectionately calls her “uncle.”)

Judy Abbott is exactly the sort of girl you'd want for your roommate, so she could involve you in all her adventures large and small. Her sunniness, openness, and enthusiasm make her a joy and a delight to be around. The novel is comfort reading of the first degree and I have no idea how many times I have reread it, and its sequel, Dear Enemy.

Until I opened The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society yesterday evening, I had not encountered such an enchanting heroine detailing her life in letters since my first encounter with Judy. And now Juliet Ashton has captured my heart and my imagination. Written in the form of letters, the book details the German occupation of Guernsey Island, and the ways in which its occupants, cut off from the world for five years, cope. Juliet, an author interested in writing the island’s story, is charming and funny and wry. The book is completely captivating; I could not stop reading. I was in love, with Juliet, with the island, with its inhabitants, with Sidney, Juliet’s editor, and with Sophie, Sidney’s sister and Juliet’s best friend. And indeed, there is a feisty and engaging orphan featured as well. I don’t want to tell you more – I want you to go read it. I want to buy my own copy to have and reread and look at on my shelf. It’s a wonderful little book. (And I have to say it would make a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone on your list for whom you have absolutely no idea what to buy.)

And now, just as Juliet points out how wonderful it is that a book captures you with a tiny detail which leads you to another book and a detail in that book leads you to a third, I must go read up on the history and inhabitants of Guernsey, embarking on yet another tangential treasure hunt.



**********

*Victor Hugo

13 comments:

Bearette24 said...

I'm really looking forward to it now...

Shirty said...

I just requested it from the library--thanks!

daysgoby said...

I finished that a little while ago - and LOVED it! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Julia said...

I loved the Daddy Long Legs series too...ordering Guernsey right now!

Velma said...

So glad to read this - I was thinking about reading it, but the title was offputting to me after the proliferation of "traveling-pants-ya-ya-sisterhood-long-ass-titles." I'll have to put it on my list, because I need some comfort reading, bad. I'm trying to plow through Neal Stephenson's "Anathem," which is due back at the library this Friday.

delta said...

I just KNEW you would love this book! And I agree -- who picked the title? This is one of those books that will blaze like wildfire due to word of mouth recommendations. And it would indeed be the perfect present for just about anyone.

teachergirl said...

You have no idea how many times I have walked around with this book in my hands, trying to decide...

Eleanor said...

I read this post and then raced to my bookshelf to grab my yellowed, falling apart 1980 paperback copy of "Daddy-Long-Legs." Thanks so much for reminding me of this book which has been sitting there on the shelf ever so quietly, waiting for me to remember it, with my eleven-year-old girl's handwriting on the front page letting me know that "this book belongs to me." How could I have forgotten those cute little drawings too?

Thanks!

SFP said...

My mother-in-law gave me the Shaffer for my birthday (haven't read it yet) and I'm giving her The Book of Ebenezer Le Page for Christmas, which is the book I've read about Guernsey. I have a suspicion you'd love it, too.

kim at allconsuming said...

Pippi Longstocking
Anne of Green Gables
The girl in The Secret Garden
Nancy Drew
The girl in The Borrowers
The girl(s) in The Magic Far-Away Tree
Milly Molly Mandy

Oh beautiful memories of youth.

paula said...

I loved.loved.loved Monsters of Templeton (that you recomemded) so I will give this one a try as well(I'm 19 on the waiting list at the library).

wvf=suberace hmm.

Anonymous said...

did you read the sally lockhart series by philip pullman? they're really good, and, sally's an orphan, so there ya go.

BabelBabe said...

i did read the sally Lockhart books, altho I liked the last one the best (the one not directly dealing with SL)