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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by betty smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (original 1943; edition 2001)

by betty smith, anna quindlen (Foreword)

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Title:A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Authors:betty smith
Other authors:anna quindlen (Foreword)
Info:harper perennial (2001), Paperback, 493 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, historical fiction, children, New York, Brooklyn, childhood

Work details

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

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English (249)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  All languages (257)
Showing 1-5 of 249 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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. ( )
  IsaboeOfLumatere | Jan 14, 2015 |
While Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will never rival Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep for so-called high-brow literature, the two books have something in common: pluck. In the eminently readable A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith shows it to us in the Nolans—a half Irish-, half Austrian-American family at home(s) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In Call It Sleep, Roth uses stream-of-consciousness alongside narrative descriptions of squalor and depravity on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to show us—if you’ll allow a clunky metaphor—an alternative definition of pluck: namely, “the heart, liver, windpipe and lungs of a slaughtered animal” (American Heritage Dictionary). Is it fair to say that one novel is better than the other, that one writer is more accomplished than the other? I think it is. Henry Roth wins hands down. If Roth’s novel deals with depravity, Smith’s deals with deprivation. The difference between Roth’s David Schearl (the beaten young “hero” of Call It Sleep) and Smith’s Francie Nolan (the coming-of-age heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) is no less than that between resignation and hope. On Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the first two decades of the last century, ‘hope’ would’ve been a cynical sluice to the East River and its pollutants. In the Williamsburg ghetto of the same period, ‘hope’ would’ve been the only dyke keeping that same river and its pollutants at bay. Hope, for the heroes of both stories, is just a well-appreciated resting place along the way to resignation. If there’s any similarity between the two novels, it’s to be found in Chapter 43 of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This—at least to my way of thinking—is where Betty Smith’s prose shines with a brilliance equal to Roth’s. Why, then, would I here suggest that Roth is the better writer? In deciding upon the virtues of the harp or the lyre versus the trombone or the tuba, first consider the player—as much that of the reviewer as that of the author. I find that Roth takes me deeper into his characters and into their immediate circumstances while Smith tweaks me as a reader. For my money, she’s a bit too heavy-handed in jerking the obvious tear. Would I read either or both once again? Unequivocally, yes. I’ve already read Call It Sleep twice. I may one day invest in a second reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. If, in a word or two, I had to characterize the two novels, I’d say that Call It Sleep stretches the brain cells while A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tugs at the heart strings. Either way, you can’t lose. But what do I know? Call It Sleep had to wait thirty years to find an appreciable (and appreciative) audience; meanwhile, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was an instant success. Is there a more fitting—and telling—tribute to the American myth? Ms. Smith, meet Mr. Horatio Alger. ( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
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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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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.
First words
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.
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)

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