Monday, May 3, 2010

Dear Enemy

by Jean Webster

Webster was Samuel Clemens' great-niece. I had not known that until I picked up this book, which is the sequel to one of my favorites from childhood: Daddy-long-legs. Believe it or not, these are as close to teen books as you will find from the era in which they were written. Both books revolve around women who spent part of their lives in the fictional John Grier Home for orphans.

Sallie McBride, a recent college graduate, finds herself the superintendent of an orphan asylum as a favor to a friend. Throughout much of this epistolary novel, she contends that her role is temporary. As the book was written in 1915, it makes sense that Sallie believes she is meant for marriage and a life that does not involve paid work outside the home. Modern girls will cheer for Sallie as she triumphs over many adverse conditions left by her predecessor. Owing to that pre-suffrage era, Sallie does manage to fall in love and plot her married life. Far too often for my modern feminist taste, she is rescued by men. I repeatedly reminded myself that men would have been the benefactors who could provide all that the orphanage needed.

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