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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)

by Betty Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,836388310 (4.32)1 / 890
The story of the Nolan family, including daughter Francie, and life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn during the early part of the 20th century.
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(see all 21 recommendations)

1940s (12)

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» See also 890 mentions

English (372)  Spanish (5)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (386)
Showing 1-5 of 372 (next | show all)
I loved the characters in this book. Spunky, fun, vivid, and likeable characters. Beautiful writing. Great descriptions of the neighborhood where Francie grew up in Brooklyn. I felt like I was there. Talks about the poverty of the Nolan family without making you feel sorry for them. ( )
  Jeff_Simms | Jun 9, 2021 |
I loved this book when i first read it, back in middle school. I never forgot it, because I identified with Francie, knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in, be insecure, lose someone you love with all your heart (my grandmother died around the time I read this, and it made me empathize with Francie losing her dad) and try to find your place in the world. We also shared a love of reading, and at one time I wanted to be a writer, too.

I liked going through all the stages of her coming of age, from collecting junk to make a few extra pennies, troubles with neighborhood kids, having to accept that her mother would never feel as strongly for her as she does for her brother, the special bond she had with her father, despite his alcoholism, and her heartbreak when he died, having to leave school to help support the family, falling for a guy who only wants to sleep with her, and everything else she went through, until she's a young woman ready to start college, as well as a new life.

Along with Francie, I also liked Aunt Sissy, her mother, Katie's sister. She was the "bad girl" with a good heart. She also had some of the best scenes in the book, as well as the funniest.

I can't say I cared all that much for either of her parents. Katie may have had a difficult life, but she brought that on herself by marrying too young, and to someone all wrong for her. Johnny, Francie's father, was a good man, but also a weak one, who blamed how tough life was for his being an alcoholic, yet he sabotaged every chance he had to improve his life and didn't try to help himself until it was too late. Katie didn't seem to realize how serious his drinking was (I guess back when the book was set people saw excessive drinking as a foolish choice, not an addiction) and never did anything to help him, whereas Sissy gave it a try. she was also insensitive to Francie, by favoring her brother, Neely, and never bothering to hide it. You're left hoping she becomes a better person the second time around, a better mother to Annie Laurie and a better wife to Mr. McShane.

But character flaws didn't take away from enjoying this book. ( )
  EmeraldAngel | Jun 3, 2021 |
Another reread that I am happy that it keeps the five-stars rating. This book convinced my sixth-grade self that I wasn't uncool for spending so much time reading and dreaming. I think this book is equally compelling for adults. There are adult situations. Situations like alcoholism, deviant behavior, and death serve as a perfect way to introduce and discuss these matters with young tweens and teens.
In many respects, it's a heartbreaking novel, filled with suffering and often deeply sad, but it's always enormously inspiring and somehow always entertaining. Some critics dismissed it as "sentimental," which is hard to believe when it was published. It is anything but sentimental. ---- It is realism at its finest. Highly recommended. Truly an American classic.
I marked so many quotes, and I know for sure that 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' is a book I will read a couple more times in my life. ( )
  AvigailRGRIL | May 24, 2021 |
One of my favourite books growing up. ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
I actually loved this one. I know it gives a lot of seemingly unnecessary detail, but as the kids and I are covering US history close to the time period, I actually found it captivating. It's so fun to find fiction that surrounds you so well in a specific time and place, and Smith is wonderful at weaving not only plot but setting. Her characters are solid, well-fleshed-out, in spite of the number of years the volume spans. I was sincerely sad to say goodbye to Francie. ( )
  mullinstreetzoo | Feb 12, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 372 (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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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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The story of the Nolan family, including daughter Francie, and life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn during the early part of the 20th century.

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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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