Jean Webster Daddy-Long-Legs (1912).
This is the cover of my 1954 copy of Daddy-Long-Legs, which I found in a second-hand bookshop in Perth for a measly $7:
I can't believe that I didn't read this wonderful book in my youth. It is quite magical and I think I might sit down and re-read it immediately. Just as soon as I download all the other books by Jean Webster (they're mostly available for free on-line). Puffin are going to reprint Daddy-Long-Legs soon too:
I loved the film (how could one not like a Fred Astaire film, although the age-gap between Astaire and Caron was considerably more than in the book):
Jerusha Abbott is an orphan miraculously taken under the wing of an anonymous benefactor who sends her to a nice ladies' college of the Vassar type and provides an income so that she can fulfil her promise of becoming a writer. Summer holidays are to be spent on a farm working at her craft. In exchange? Once a month, Judy - as she now becomes - must write her guardian a letter about her life. She will never hear from or meet Daddy-Long-Legs, as she calls him - having spied his elongated shadow on the orphanage wall - and she is not to ask any questions about him. Judy's letters are a delight as we learn how she adapts to college life and to having money to spend on clothes and entertainment for the first time in her life. Her letters reveal snippets of the ills of life as the oldest orphan and we watch as she flowers intellectually and physically. Romance enters her life in the form of a room-mate's "big, good-looking brother" and, most spectacularly, another room-mate's wealthy older uncle Jervis - all of which she documents to Daddy-Long-Legs. Can't give away the rest (though it's pretty obvious).
I hope he'll [Jervis] come soon; I am longing for someone to talk to. Mrs. Semple, to tell you the truth, gets rather monotonous. She never lets ideas interrupt the easy flow of her conversation. It's a funny thing about people here. Their world is just this single hilltop. They are not a bit universal, if you know what I mean. It's exactly the same as at the John Grier Home. Our ideas there were bounded by the four sides of the iron fence, only I didn't mind it so much because I was younger, and was so awfully busy. By the time I'd got all my beds made and my babies' faces washed and had gone to school and come home and had washed their faces again and darned their stockings and mended Freddie Perkin's trousers (he tore them every day of his life) and learned my lessons in between - I was ready to go to bed, and I didn't notice any lack of social intercourse. But after two years in a conversational college, I do miss it; and I shall be glad to see somebody who speaks my language.
It is remarkably undated, apart from references to women not having the vote. Loved it: laughed, cried, rushed out and bought the 'sequel' Dear Enemy on ebay before I discovered it for free everywhere.
If you liked this... I want to read Anne of Green Gables again. Not that other red-headed Orphan Annie though. Failing that: Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame.