A Tree Grows in BrooklynBook - 1989
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 century.
From the moment she entered the world, Francie 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 rich moments of universal experiences--a truly remarkable achievement for any writer.
From the critics
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Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.
"you didn't see the dirt or the meanness; you saw the glory of innocence and the poignancy of a baby growing up too soon."
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This book follows the life of young Frances (Francie) Nolan. It takes you through her hard life in Brooklyn where Francie soon learns to take care of herself and others having to make sacrifices from a young age for the ones she loves. Francie's thoughtful insight teach many life lessons though seen from her perspective. This novel takes time and you grow alongside with the somewhat out of place Francie, and as it is her life story some readers may find it dull...My first read of this author and very good overall.
The title of this novel refers to a tree that grows persistently up through the concrete and harsh conditions of a poor tenement neighborhood in early 1900s Brooklyn. But it is also a metaphor for the novel's protagonist, Francie Nolan. She is a sweet, innocent girl who grows and flourishes despite a harsh environment of neglect and poverty.
This novel centers on Francie Nolan's coming-of-age in 1910s and 1920s Brooklyn. Francie starts the novel as a poor 11-year-old girl who loves to read with an alcoholic father who she feels she understands and vice versa. They are both sentimental and talented. Francie's breadwinning mother does not have as healthy as a relationship with her daughter - she favors Francie's younger brother and "always has to have the last word." The novel is character-centric, and has little semblance of a plot
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