For one, Francie s sufferings and trials from being the unloved child gave me a special, odd sort of comfort If she could survive no, flourish living in the slums of Brooklyn with a drunk Irish father and a mother who was not always there for her, why could I not do so in absolute comfort Granted, my father is not a drunk, nor is he Irish and my mother is always there for me Still, as every young adult feels at one point during this trying time, I have often thought that there was no one to whom I could turn for steady support Secondly, Betty Smith wrote the novel in a fluid, page turning manner Her every word supports and encourages the next, while also performing the duty of enticing the reader to keep marching onward She writes simply and plainly, a very modern woman in a time where their position in society was shifting.
She created in Francie a heroine worthy of comparison to Jane Austen s beloved Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood Bold, daring, smart, and at the same time reserved, wise, creative, and thoughtful, Smith wrote a protagonist not only for the shifting ways of the early 20th century, but for all time.
During my adolescent years a short run program on television was Brooklyn Bridge, a show about life in Brooklyn during the 1950s The last line of the show s theme song was that place just over the Brooklyn Bridge will always be home to me When I think of Brooklyn, my mind goes back to a wholesome time when city children could stay out late and parents did not have to worry about their well being, where children frequented the penny candy store and rode on paper routes after school This was the Brooklyn of the 1950s, yet by immersing myself in Betty Smith s timeless A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for two days, I entered into an environment that was both wholesome and dangerous and a perfect setting for coming of age the Brooklyn of the 1910s Francie Nolan was born December 15, 1901, the eldest child of Johnny and Katie Nolan The Nolan parents may have been born in Brooklyn, but both only had an eighth grade education and had been working in factories from the time they were fourteen By the time they married as older teenagers, the Nolans were relegated to a life in the tenements, living paycheck to paycheck The only way they could afford their apartment was through Katie working as a janitress in the building Here is where we first meet Francie, age eleven, a girl who her grandmother Mary Rommely noted was destined for a special life As Francie and her brother Neeley, aged one year younger, came of age they had to endure many hardships Between Johnny s drinking and Katie s meager earnings, there was no telling where the family s next meal would come from Yet, Katie persevered because she wanted her children to have a better life than the one she had She had Francie and Neeley read a page of the Bible and a page of Shakespeare each night before bed, and exchanged her work as a janitor for piano lessons from two spinster women who lived downstairs Between this self education and Johnny s constant lessons in civics and politics, the Nolan children had education than their parents ever had One place that was free was the public library Francie was determined to read one book a day for the rest of her life Through reading she uplifted herself from the rest of her neighborhood despite the extreme poverty in which she lived Katie taught her children to be proud of their station in life and never accept charity Through hard work, religion, and education, the next generation would endure I thought these messages were timeless, as well as the sisterly chats between Katie and her sisters Sissy and Evy, which eventually grew to include Francie when she reached her teen years Girls grew up fast then, a girl frequenting the library one day, to a teen working in a factory the next I thought Francie s exchanges with Katie and Sissy about life were especially poignant, as I watched Francie grow up before my eyes Betty Smith was born December 15, 1896, five years before Francie Nolan A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was her first novel, and an autobiographical account of her life until she left for college It generated much acclaim, even initially, because as writer Anna Quindlen points out in her forward, that no matter what station in life you are in, a person can see oneself in Francie Nolan Perhaps if I had read this book when I was eleven, I may have thought this way Yet, by reading this classic for the first time as an adult, I found it to be a charming, historical fiction, coming of age story however, not one that left me bawling and would change my life For an adolescent girl reading this for the first time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn would be a special experience As Francie is about to leave her childhood behind, she points out that Brooklyn is a special place, not like New York, and one has to be from there to understand it These sentiments echoed Quindlen s writing, as I came to experience the magic of early 20th century Brooklyn Betty Smith ties up her ending happily because this is what happens in the first part of her life She would go on to be a novelist and playwright, and a reader can expect the same bright things for Francie Nolan For an eleven year old girl, reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a magical experience and sure fire five star read As an adult, I can appreciate the life lessons learned as well as the timeless of the setting I enjoyed my time with Francie and her family and rate this classic 4.
5 shining stars.
Yup, I m reading it AGAIN I sob, and I mean sob, every time I read this book It s such a simple story Francie Nolan is a smart little girl who s trying to find beauty in her sometimes ugly, always poverty stricken life Her adored father is wonderful, but too plagued by his own demons to support his family Her mother loves her children fiercely but is often harsh because she thinks it s her job to keep them grounded in reality oh, and she seems to love Francie s brother Her aunt is a bit of a floozy, but is still kind and generous Together, this family lives dirt poor in Brooklyn And that s it But from this simple premise grows a tender, heartbreaking story It s the only book that fills me with sadness just by thinking about it Also, this is another of those books that I fear will fade away It s just not that flashy, and it is long I m always saddened at how much length plays a part in what my students choose to read Please buy it Well, the tree grows very slowly and with exhaustive detail.
Couldn t get through this one Actually, that s not entirely true I could have And I don t mean that in the way of a mountain climber who just couldn t make it to the top and then warps reality by looking back at it No, it s like couldn t as in I couldn t eat another hashbrown from my McDonald s breakfast Sure, I COULD have It just didn t seem worth the pain.
I get why this book is a classic, I think My brother and I argue about this all the time He feels like it s important to watch a movie like Casablanca because it s historically significant to the medium of film He makes the point that without Casablanca, there is no Ghostbusters okay, he doesn t point to Ghostbusters, but he should if he ever wants to get any traction with ME This book is definitely of interest as a historical document An historical document You know what, I m not done talking about Ghostbusters, so we better stick with a historical document The book is excruciatingly detailed about day to day life in Brooklyn during the early 1900 s, down to what they had at the candy store I shit you not, there s a page and a half describing the purchase of a pickle The WHY of a pickle purchase The best practices The roles played by both seller and buyer And here I am, enormous pickles in plastic sleeves of juice at every gas station in town What I m saying is, this is a great thing to have as it records what was happening in that time period, and also records the day to day life of a family that s just this side of poor Not a war, not a huge event Just what happens at your average Brooklyn pickle place.
So I get why it s important, but that doesn t mean I want to read it My brother would tell you that without Casablanca there is no Ghostbusters, and I can t disagree with that But I like Ghostbusters I don t like Casablanca And with books and movies we re lucky enough to be in an age where there is good material out there than people can consume in a lifetime I am wholly convinced that I will never read every book that I would truly enjoy, which is messed up Really messed up But it s true, and that means there s really no time to waste on something that, though not terrible, just isn t doing much for me.
I had heard of this book quite frequently, but for some reason or another never picked it up Then years ago, my book club decided to read it What a Joy What a Pleasure I loved reading about this young girl who loved to read as much as I did How I could relate to her love of going to the library and finding that special book that treasure Thus, this book became my treasure It holds a place on my favorite book list Francie Nolan is a very poor young girl living in the slums of Williamsburg Her father is an alcoholic who breezes in and out of their lives But in Francie s eyes he is a prince Children often do not see their parent s flaws or perhaps they have the gift of overlooking She has her father s heart and desperately tries to capture the heart of her hardworking, often harsh, Mother Her life is rough She is a girl who loves to look out her front window on Saturday nights, who loves the chalk and short pencils brought home to her She finds pleasure in the things she can, while enduring hardships such as no or little heat, lack of proper food, loneliness, assault and loss She has an interesting Aunt who always has a boyfriend My grandmother would call her a harlot I would also call her loving and kind to her niece and nephew.
This book stirs the emotions of the reader There is sadness in this book but there is also survival, hope, strength and determination The character try their hardest They are flawed, make mistakes, but always try to do the right thing Beautifully written book.
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Loved it from page 1Slow paced and really descriptive but I loved it.
I really enjoyed learning about life back then for the NolansHighs and lows of life and daily experience I was so emotionally attached to Francie She was a brillant character and I loved her to pieces Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first time or last time Then your time on earth will be filed with glory A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty SmithThis may well be one of the top 5 books I have ever read It is an amazing piece of fiction one of those books that stays with you long after you ve read it This was Betty Smith s first novel and it is an American classic it was an immediate bestseller when it was published in 1943 Smith drew from her own experience growing up in Brooklyn at the turn of the twentieth century to create the character of Francie Nolan It s story of a young girl learning to persevere like the tree of the book s title and overcome the hardships of poverty One of the first plainly written novels about the lives of ordinary working class Americans, it s beloved as a story of what it means to be human.
But A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is much than a coming of age story Its richly plotted narrative of three generations in a poor but proud American family offers a detailed and unsentimental portrait of urban life at the beginning of the century The story begins in 1912, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where eleven year old Francie Nolan and her younger brother, Neeley, are spending a Saturday collecting rags, paper, metal, rubber, and other scrap to sell to the junk man for a few pennies Half of any money they get goes into the tin can bank that is nailed to the floor in the back corner of a closet in their tenement flat This bank, a shared resource among everyone in the family, is returned to time and again throughout the novel, and becomes a recurring symbol of the Nolan s self reliance, struggles, and dreams.
Those dreams sustain every member of the extended Nolan family, not just the children Their mother Katie scrubs floors and works as a janitor to provide the family with free lodging She is the primary breadwinner because her husband Johnny, a singing waiter, is often drunk and out of work Yet there is no dissension in the Nolan household Katie married a charming dreamer and she accepts her fate, but she vows that things will be better for her children Her dream is that they will go to college and that Neeley will become a doctor Intelligent and bookish, Francie seems destined to fulfill this ambition Neeley less so.
In spite of or perhaps because of her own pragmatic nature, Francie feels a stronger affinity with her ne er do well father than with her self sacrificing mother In her young eyes, Johnny can make wishes come true, as when he finagles her a place in a better public school outside their neighborhood When Johnny dies an alcohol related death, leaving behind the two school aged children and another on the way, Francie cannot quite believe that life can carry on as before Somehow it does, although the family s small enough dreams need to be further curtailed Through Katie s determination, Francie and Neeley are able to graduate from the eighth grade, but thoughts of high school give way to the reality of going to work Their jobs, which take them for the first time across the bridge into Manhattan, introduce them to a broader view of life, beyond the parochial boundaries of Williamsburg Here Francie feels the pain of her first love affair And with determination equal to her mother s, she finds a way to complete her education As she heads off to college at the end of the book, Francie leaves behind the old neighborhood, but carries away in her heart the beloved Brooklyn of her childhood.
No matter your age or your place in life the rich prose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will fuel your dreams and bring joy to your heart as you are transported to another time.
My story of this book I never read this back during my school days though I was probably given the opportunity I had two elective English classes where we were given a choice between three books, this was probably one but I chose another Sometime within the passing years I bought a copy and put it in the book shelf that is next to my television, where it has stared at me for years, subtly asking ng is it my turn yet When my friend Brina said she was reading this book and did anyone want to read Al ng with her, I looked at the book and thought, go for it It was finally this books turn I opened the page.
Started reading and fell in love with the story of Francie and her family, living in Brooklyn during the early 1900 s Kate her mother, a very strong woman who worked extremely hard, Johnny her charming, hard drinking Irish father and her brother Neely a short year younger than herself Francie was a remarkable character, how she thinks, the special love she had for her father, who despite his drinking managed to be there when she really needed him We read as this family weathers changes in livelihood, living conditions and the many changes taking place in the world Although it was Brooklyn it could have been my neighborhood in Chicago, sixty years later when I was growing up Somethings had changed, my neighborhood was Irish, Polish and Italian and instead of being secluded but ethnicity we all played together, in the streets sidewalks and alleys If there was any division it was between those who were Catholic and went to Catholic school and the public s as we called them, who did not There were still corner stores and our mothers not driving, we were often sent to the stores Hard drinking Irishmen, we had those too, the ones who closed the bars and walked home weaving but singing This book was so easy to identify with, the characters so realistic, well, I was smitten, wanted good things to happen for them The one thing that has changed from back then that I envied them for, was the closeness of families, where everyone worked together, remained close We don t have this any in this global world and that s a shame imo.
Would I have appreciated all the nuances of family life within this story, the struggles they went through if I had read this when I was in school, I think not I think reading this as an adult I was able to identify and understand what each decision cost them, how hard they fought for survival I think I read this at the perfect time, plus now it is no longer staring at me unread.
The Beloved American Classic About A Young Girl S Coming Of Age At The Turn Of The Century, Betty Smith S A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Is A Poignant And Moving Tale Filled With Compassion And Cruelty, Laughter And Heartache, Crowded With Life And People And Incident The Story Of Young, Sensitive, And Idealistic Francie Nolan And Her Bittersweet Formative Years In The Slums Of Williamsburg Has Enchanted And Inspired Millions Of Readers For Than Sixty Years By Turns Overwhelming, Sublime, Heartbreaking, And Uplifting, The Daily Experiences Of The Unforgettable Nolans Are Raw With Honesty And Tenderly Threaded With Family Connectedness In A Work Of Literary Art That Brilliantly Captures A Unique Time And Place As Well As Incredibly Rich Moments Of Universal Experience