Some books give young girls dreams of ponies, kittens, and visions of eternal love. And it is also one of the best young adult books I have ever read. I first read this book as a young teen, perhaps when I was 13 or 14. Even if you're the best person in the world, life can still slap you in the face, and you can only take what fate has handed you. It is about a young girl named Frannie, a child born of desperately poor parents. If you wanted a true portrait of the people of Brooklyn in the early 20th century, you will find no better depiction in this book. Not all little girls need constant beauty and joy and complacency. They need to know that they, too, can survive and thrive, despite what life throws at them.
"Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. 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." "Don't say that. Everything struggles to live.
I sob, and I mean sob, every time I read this book. It's such a simple story--Francie Nolan is a smart little girl who's trying to find beauty in her sometimes ugly, always poverty-stricken life.
This was the Brooklyn of the 1950s, yet by immersing myself in Betty Smith's timeless A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for two days, I entered into an environment that was both wholesome and dangerous and a perfect setting for coming of age: the Brooklyn of the 1910s. The Nolan parents may have been born in Brooklyn, but both only had an eighth grade education and had been working in factories from the time they were fourteen. She had Francie and Neeley read a page of the Bible and a page of Shakespeare each night before bed, and exchanged her work as a janitor for piano lessons from two spinster women who lived downstairs. I thought these messages were timeless, as well as the sisterly chats between Katie and her sisters Sissy and Evy, which eventually grew to include Francie when she reached her teen years. Yet, by reading this classic for the first time as an adult, I found it to be a charming, historical fiction, coming of age story; however, not one that left me bawling and would change my life. For an adolescent girl reading this for the first time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn would be a special experience. For an eleven year old girl, reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a magical experience and sure fire five star read.
An historical document(?) You know what, I'm not done talking about Ghostbusters, so we better stick with "a historical document." The book is excruciatingly detailed about day-to-day life in Brooklyn during the early 1900's, down to what they had at the candy store. So I get why it's important, but that doesn't mean I want to read it. My brother would tell you that without Casablanca there is no Ghostbusters, and I can't disagree with that. I don't like Casablanca. But it's true, and that means there's really no time to waste on something that, though not terrible, just isn't doing much for me.
How I could relate to her love of going to the library and finding that special book - that treasure! Francie Nolan is a very poor young girl living in the slums of Williamsburg. She finds pleasure in the things she can, while enduring hardships such as no or little heat, lack of proper food, loneliness, assault and loss. They are flawed, make mistakes, but always try to do the right thing.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith This may well be one of the top 5 books I have ever read. When Johnny dies an alcohol-related death, leaving behind the two school-aged children and another on the way, Francie cannot quite believe that life can carry on as before. Through Katie's determination, Francie and Neeley are able to graduate from the eighth grade, but thoughts of high school give way to the reality of going to work. As she heads off to college at the end of the book, Francie leaves behind the old neighborhood, but carries away in her heart the beloved Brooklyn of her childhood. No matter your age or your place in life the rich prose A Tree Grows In Brooklyn will fuel your dreams and bring joy to your heart as you are transported to another time.
Started reading and fell in love with the story of Francie and her family, living in Brooklyn during the early 1900's. Francie was a remarkable character, how she thinks, the special love she had for her father, who despite his drinking managed to be there when she really needed him. This book was so easy to identify with, the characters so realistic, well, I was smitten, wanted good things to happen for them. Would I have appreciated all the nuances of family life within this story, the struggles they went through if I had read this when I was in school, I think not.
E. Smith, a fellow Brooklynite, she moved with him to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he pursued a law degree at the University of Michigan. Although Smith had not finished high school, the university allowed her to enroll in classes. Throughout her life, Smith worked as a dramatist, receiving many awards and fellowships including the Rockefeller Fellowship and the Dramatists Guild Fellowship for her work in drama.