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

by betty smith, anna quindlen (Foreword)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,699255298 (4.34)1 / 639
Member:Larkken
Title:A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Authors:betty smith
Other authors:anna quindlen (Foreword)
Info:harper perennial (2001), Paperback, 493 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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 (245)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  All languages (253)
Showing 1-5 of 245 (next | show all)
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 |
I ran across this book at the library and picked it up wondering how I had gotten to such a grand old age without reading this classic. After several pages I began to falter in my determination to read it in its entirety. But I persevered and the book began to grow on me and I even shed tears several times the tale was so moving. I was surprised to realize that so much of what was taking place in the early 1900's still takes place today. How I wanted to buy several sacks of groceries and time travel to Francie apt and hand them over! Hunger was a huge part of her life! What amazed me the most was how I related to her statement on how she did not like women. It has been my experience that woman tend to hate other women. Child birth does not bind us together, submission to the "man's world" does not bind us together. Francie learned this at a tender age, I learned it much later and should have realized it in grammar school! Loved this book once I became emotionally engaged with the characters and the story. ( )
  Alphawoman | Dec 6, 2014 |
This book is one of my favorites! Read my full review at http://owlyouneedreads.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-tree-grows-in-brooklyn.html ( )
  knsievert | Nov 25, 2014 |
This book is one of my favorites! Read my full review at http://owlyouneedreads.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-tree-grows-in-brooklyn.html ( )
  knsievert | Nov 25, 2014 |
Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. 1947. 420 pp. $17.99. Harper. 978-0061120-077.
Francie Nolan is the precocious and thoughtful daughter of a hardworking yet stern mother and her beloved alcoholic father who struggle to get by in the impoverished slums of Brooklyn. Smith records in dizzying detail the daily lives of Francie and her brother Neely. Smith’s characters are richly developed and memorable, and the characters’ struggles continue to be relatable. This coming-of-age tale is realistic and full of tenderness, without being sentimental. Issues such as poverty, sex, and politics are discussed through the lens of Francie’s developing understanding of the world. The complexity of these themes and the rich historical portrait of early 1900s makes it an excellent novel for use in high school classrooms. Librarians may have to booktalk this classic to readers, but those who pick it up will be delighted. ( )
  alovett | Nov 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 245 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Bettyprimary 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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