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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)

by Betty Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,934430314 (4.31)1 / 923
Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family's erratic and eccentric behavior??such as her father Johnny's taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy's habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce??no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans' life lacked drama.

By turns heartbreaking and uplifting, the Nolans' daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life??from "junk day" on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience. Here is an American classic that "cuts right to the heart of life," hails the New York Times. "If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you will deny yourself a rich experien… (more)

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1940s (12)
AP Lit (187)
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» See also 923 mentions

English (409)  Spanish (6)  Italian (4)  Catalan (2)  Greek (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  French (1)  All languages (427)
Showing 1-5 of 409 (next | show all)
One of my favorites of all time! Love how it evokes the early 1900s, and I love the strength and determination of the main characters. ( )
  ajrenshaw99 | Sep 1, 2023 |
Ah, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A classic! I don't know why it took me sooooo long to actually read this classic, on the *80th* anniversary of its first publication. Of course I knew of this book; maybe it was the title which put me off when I was younger.

I LOVED it: historical fiction, NYC in the early 1900's, family drama/relationships, immigrant neighborhoods, spunky kids, colorful characters, food.
It reminded me of one of my most beloved children's series growing up, All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.

Now I see that another novel I recently read, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant gave me shades of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. ( )
  deslivres5 | Aug 21, 2023 |
A Bridge Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a 1943 publication.

This is another book that I’ve long been curious about but never got around to reading. It is a much beloved novel, but with some recent bad experiences with ‘much beloved classics’, I approached this one with some caution.

Thankfully, despite the often-bleak circumstances, I found the book to be an accurate depiction of the time, never flinching from hard themes. Our Francine is a character we root for, hoping her future is more promising.

The love of reading and books plays a big role in Francine’s life, which also gives her a yearning to write. Naturally, this appeals to this voracious reader, as did the family saga, another favorite of mine.

Many, many reviews, doing the book far more justice than I ever could, have been written, so anything I might add has all been said before- and more eloquently, as well.

I will say that I ended up truly loving this novel and can understand why it has appealed to so many people and why it has endured for all these years. For once, a classic novel lived up to its reputation- and then some!!

Overall, if you haven’t read this classic family drama, I hope you’ll squeeze it into your reading schedule someday. You’ll be glad you did!

*Fun fact: I read this book in digital format. This edition has an introduction written by Ann Patchett. Because the novel is rather lengthy, I found the audio version on Hoopla and switched back and forth between both formats. Interestingly, the audio version, recorded many years ago, also came with an introduction by Jacqueline Mitchard. I am glad I was able to enjoy hearing both authors’ comments about this book! ( )
  gpangel | Jul 31, 2023 |
Non essendo nata con la camicia, il mito del self-made man (quello che alla fine ce la fa, non importa quante avversità debba fronteggiare) ha sempre avuto appeal su di me.

Così è stato anche con Un albero cresce a Brooklyn, la storia di Francie e della sua famiglia, che cercano di tirare avanti e migliorarsi a dispetto della loro sfortunata partenza. Tutti i personaggi di questa famiglia sono interessanti e con le loro caratteristiche peculiari: dalla femminilità pericolosa di Sissy alla granitica forza di Katie; dal sognatore Johnny alla fedele Mary.

Tutti i membri di questa famiglia puntano con forza verso l'obiettivo: far studiare i figli. A partire dalla nonna, nelle loro menti è stata ben instillata l'importanza dell'istruzione, a cominciare dall'alfabetizzazione: così, noi lettori li vediamo avvicinarsi alla meta un passetto – e tanti sacrifici – alla volta, da una generazione all'altra.

Siamo nei primi anni del Novecento e sognare il sogno americano forse era più realistico rispetto ai primi anni Duemila. In effetti, parecchia retorica da American dream mi è sembrata un po' eccessiva – o forse è solo colpa mia e della mia disillusione. Tuttavia, rimane un buon libro. E un buon sogno (che alle volte si realizza: bisogna ricordarsi di non dimenticarlo). ( )
  kristi_test_02 | Jul 28, 2023 |
An incredibly poignant story of America told through the eyes of a young impoverished girl living in a Brooklyn tenement building. A piece of literature that captures the hope and desperation in the early twentieth century. ( )
  librarianlion | Jul 5, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 409 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Bettyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burton, KateNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillard, Anniesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hall, BarnabyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kazin, AlfredAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagani, DanielaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pietribiasi, AntonellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quindlen, AnnaForewordsecondary 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 (1)

Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family's erratic and eccentric behavior??such as her father Johnny's taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy's habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce??no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans' life lacked drama.

By turns heartbreaking and uplifting, the Nolans' daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life??from "junk day" on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience. Here is an American classic that "cuts right to the heart of life," hails the New York Times. "If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you will deny yourself a rich experien

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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.
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