A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick
The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.
From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life-from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children of Francie’s neighborhood traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly ric...
User reviews (200)
Marvelous insight into Brooklyn, NY, in the early decades of the twentieth century. Descriptive, humorous, informative, and poignant. I highly recommend it.
i finally finished! this was well worth the read, although it was not a book that i felt i could rush. there was no real story line, so to speak, almost written in the fashion of many short stories. it was much more of a character and culture development book, with a meandering connection that loosely carries the book throughout. through some very serious topics, such as war, poverty, love and death, this book follows a young girl through her childhood in a tragic, poetic and heartfelt tale of experience. i would definitely recommend this to anyone who has the patience to really settle back and enjoy the subtle depths of this modern classic.
This enduring story is a reminder that what matters most in good storytelling is having compelling characters. So much about this book violates so-called rules that writers are taught today. The point-of-view is distant omniscient. The author frequently tells vs show. The writing is at times straightforward to the point of being simplistic.In some ways, the novel is more a series of anecdotes portraying the hardships and tender moments of Francie Nolan’s childhood. The plot progresses mostly because she gets older and wiser about the world. There’s no dramatic climax at the end.Yet this moving tale of a girl growing up in hard times in early 20th century Brooklyn still manages to captivate the reader. After all, the hero’s journey is supposed to be about a character striving against all odds to reach a worthwhile goal While the plot may not be as tightly woven or action packed as some of today’s novels, there can be no question that Francie Nolan’s journey is heroic. We root for her the whole way, agonizing through her tough times and celebrating her triumphs.This is a simple tale, beautifully told, that affirms nothing less than the resilience of the human spirit.