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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (original 1943; edition 1998)

by Betty Smith

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,834261290 (4.34)1 / 659
Member:hzaino
Title:A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Authors:Betty Smith
Info:Perennial Classics (1998), Edition: 1st Perennial Classics ed, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

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English (250)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  All languages (258)
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
Much to do about little. ( )
  olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is the most nostalgic, sentimental book I have ever read. It starts slow. A hundred pages in and all you have is character description, setting, and back story (personally, I would have been happy with much less back story). Another hundred pages in you'll find what may be the start of the story, more setting, more character description. If you're more astute than I was, by this point you should have figured out that this was the story. In many novels, such a lack of defined plot would be detrimental to the success of the book. In A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, the loosely-defined story is its strength.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is the story of living and wanting and hoping. It centers around a Brooklyn girl and her family in the early 1900s. What else could one say about the story? That's pretty much what the book is about. That's not to say events do not happen, events that are important in the life of Francie, but these moments are not what the story is about, nor are they all that memorable. They mirror our own lives. Sure a fist fight may have seemed significant when you were in the second grade. The death of a relative may have seemed insurmountable at the time. A short-lived romance may have felt like the moving of heaven and earth when you were sixteen. But who'd read a book about events that seem so trivial in hindsight? Betty Smith, that's who.

Smith has truly captured what it means to be human in this debut novel. She recalls childhood with such insight that it is easy to forget you're reading. It doesn't matter that her streets were not my own. Nor that her wars were not mine. One hundred years may separate us, but I could largely identify with Francie Nolan. While cultural differences abound throughout the world, there is enough honest truth at the heart of Francie's story that I'd argue it is universal at its core. Regardless of plot, that is effective storytelling.

It's difficult to write a riveting book, but one is published often enough that you know you'll find another page-turner one day, if not soon. But to find such a real, honest, and natural book again... there is always hope. ( )
  chrisblocker | Feb 23, 2015 |
Let me start this review by saying this is a classic that every American citizen should read. It brings you back to a time when life was much harder than it is today-people actually had to work hard and sometimes fight for every single piece of bread being put on the table. Our society has evolved into something allowing people to just get what they want, so it was refreshing to read a book about people who worked hard for their earnings.

The Nolan family has definitely had their fair share of hardships, but that doesn't stop Katie, Francie's mother, from trying to create the best home for her family that they can afford. They go out of their way to make every penny stretch. From going to different butchers for better cuts of meat, to walking an extra couple of blocks for a less expensive bread at a bakery, this family knew how to save money. And with Johnny, Francie's father, spending all of his extra earnings at the local tavern, Katie found her way of saving a necessary way of life.

We follow Francie through her daily life and sometimes wonder how she and her young brother can make it another day when they are cold and hungry. They look forward to school knowing they at least will not be cold for the day. Francie has high expectations early on in life when she sets her eyes on a school in another District that would offer her a better education. Her father may have been the local drunk, but he helped Francie do what she needed to attend that school.

There were moments in this book making me giggle with delight, while others had me gasping with astonishment. I can't help but consider this book a great American novel that should be read by everyone, especially young kids that have everything given to them. With themes of family, struggles, and America, I'm sure you all would enjoy this novel as much as I did. I highly recommend this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion. ( )
1 vote jo-jo | Feb 15, 2015 |
The images of this book have remained with me, when I tend to forget a lot of the books that I read. I enjoyed reading about this time in history. ( )
  anitatally | Jan 25, 2015 |
Despite the writing, this book is absolutely amazing. I know without a doubt that Francie will always hold a place in my heart.

Along with about a million other characters.

And about two million crushes. ( )
1 vote IsaboeOfLumatere | Jan 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Bettyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Betty Smithmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, Bettymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kazin, AlfredAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stasolla, MarioIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There's a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly. . .survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.
Dedication
First words
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.
Quotations
Francie came away from her first chemistry lecture in a glow. In one hour she had found out that everything was made up of atoms which were in continual motion. She grasped the idea that nothing was ever lost or destroyed. Even if something was burned up or left to rot away, it did not disappear from the face of the earth; it changed into something else—gases, liquids, and powders. Everything, decided Francie after that first lecture, was vibrant with life and there was no death in chemistry. She was puzzled as to why learned people didn’t adopt chemistry as a religion.
Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well-dressed. Let me be sincere- be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061120073, Paperback)

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. (Ages 10 and older) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:37 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Young Francie Nolan, having inherited both her father's romantic and her mother's practical nature, struggles to survive and thrive growing up in the slums of Brooklyn in the early twentieth century.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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