Huge swathes of charming, with one egregious, icky icky caveat. I do love me a good epistolary novel, and this one is splendidly done, with a light touch on what the narrator says and what the author wants to happen. I find Sallie a slightly less dense narrator than Judy (heroine of the prequel Daddy Long Legs), whose greatest charm and irritation is her cheerful, persistent earnestness. Sallie is always a bit more self-aware, even when she's the silly socialite being badgered into working, and I appreciate that. No surprises here; everything unfolds exactly as you think it will, but it's a neatly crafted little story.
What I especially like about both this novel and its prequel are their sneaky, steadfast feminism. The first book is all about women's education in the early 1900s; this one is all about women's work. Yes, yes, product of their time, all about women in "appropriate" roles as writer and mother-to-113-babies-as-orphanage-director, but it's still there
. The ideas are still being raised. Women's independence and capability of learning and managing and doing
are never in question.
The caveat is the creepy, awful, pervasive eugenics stuff throughout the novel. Because, of course, Our Narrator and her eventual Love Interest flirt back and forth, in a very geeky sort of way, over science books. I am charmed by the flirtation-via-book; I'm repulsed by the subject matter. Because simple children are the product of simple parents, and bad children are the product of alcoholic parents, and all madness is hereditary, and wouldn't it be better if Those Sorts Of People just died? Ugh.