Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Review: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Author: Betty Smith

Pages: 483

Genre: Fiction/Historical/YA

Personal Rating: 4.5

From the back cover:

I couldn't decide between the one that was actually on the back over or the one from Amazon so I've included both!
The American classic about a young girl's coming of age at the turn of the century.

"A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life...If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience...It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919...Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city's poor. Primarily this is Francie's book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie's growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." --New York Times

"One of the most dearly beloved and one of the finest books of our day." --Orville Prescott

"One of the books of the century."--New York Public Library
Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely--to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father's child--romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother's child, too--deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith's poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book's humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics--and in the hearts of readers, young and old
I have to admit, I loved it. I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Usually I do not enjoy fiction that doesn't have a specific plot and just "sort of describes" a person life but this novel was different. For me it started slow but as I became engrossed with Francie and her family and how they would "manage to get by" (sometimes they did by pretending they were explorers stranded at the North Pole waiting for rescue) it went by faster and faster.

ATGIB is about a poor family and little girl growing in Brooklyn from 1902 -1919. So many small little incidences happen I often wondered how closely this book came to describing Betty Smiths actual life. The novel is divided into 5 Books each describing a differet section of Francies life (the first she is about 11, second is how her parents met until she is 7, the third covers their "education" schooling and other wise which continues until they are about 14, book 4 is about Francies having to take jobs to help earn money and finally book 5 sums it all up)

The character development is beautiful. I felt like I knew Francie, Neely, Katie and all the other characters. The writing is beautiful. I feel like I may have a little piece of what it was like to grow up poor during the early 1900's. The novel covered so many themes: poverty, class issues, gender roles, education, belief in god. All through a child's eye

Overall, the novel is not a fast read. This book is one to be savored and read slowly. It is listed as a YA novel, but the writing can get so descriptive I think many teens may find the book boring (especially boys).



Joy said...

I really enjoyed this one, too. :)

Eva said...

You know, I've never read this one, and for some reason I thought it was about an African American girl growing up after WWII. lol Apparently I was a little off! Your review made it sound so good, it's on to the neverending TBR list. :)

Jeane said...

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Thanks for the review, I enjoyed remembering Francie's world. (I loved how she loved books! I used to imagine myself reading on the fire escape with her).

raych said...

Wow. Considering how much everyone loves this book, I guess I'm going to have to add it to the pile! Thanks for the review!

Maw Books said...

This is one of those books that I can't remember if I've read or not. Looks like I need to find out and read it!

Jeanette said...

I tried reading this years and years ago but I don't think I got past page 5. It is on my list this year and I will get past pg 5 this time! :-)

littlerad said...

I read this many years ago and loved them I have also read all of her other books and I loved them as well...

Karlene said...

I loved this book. It's one of my favorites.

Paula said...

I read this book as part of the same challenge and really enjoyed it. Great review!

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