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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
| AUTHOR: || Betty Smith |
| CATEGORY: || Book |
| MANUFACTURER: || Perennial |
| ISBN: || 006092988X |
| TYPE: || 20th Century American Novel And Short Story, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.), Classics, Domestic fiction, Fiction, General, Girls, Literary, Literature - Classics / Criticism, Poor families, Poor families., Fiction / General, Reading Group Guide |
| MEDIA: || Paperback |
| # OF MEDIA: || 1 |
Customer Review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A Must Read for Any Young Woman
I have read many classic books, but "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is by far the best work of literature I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. As a sixteen year old young woman from suburban America, many may question how I can possibly relate to the unfortunate life led by Francie Nolan. However, this is the beauty of Betty Smith's masterpiece, for EVERY young woman is capable of relating to many of the scenes found in this timeless classic. These include Francie's sexual assault, the favoritism Francie's mother has for brother Neeley, and the close relationship Fancie has with her father, whose alcoholism ultimately leads to his untimely death.
Despite the hardships Francie is faced with, she perseveres, acquiring a job in order to help her family survive. Although her education must be put on hold for the time being, Francie remains hopeful that the day will come in which she, like her brother, Neeley, will be capable of going off to school.
Not only is the ongoing story of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn simply timeless, but the metaphor of the tree outside Francie's window that has grown through unfortunate circumstances is absolutely perfect. The tree had been cut down and was even the victim of a bonfire, but it continued to grow and blossom. Just like Francie, the tree beat the odds and rose from nothingness to beauty and strength.
Never have I read anything and cried at the end simply because it was over. As you read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", you become wrapped up in Francie's life until you feel as though she and you are one in the same. The fact that I have only read this book once astonishes me, and I can guarantee you that I will read it again this summer. The purchase of this book may set you [a few]...dollars, but the experience of reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is absolutely priceless.
One of the Most Beautiful Books I've Ever Read
While many novels offer an escape through some fantastical storyline set in a faraway place, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the kind of novel that makes you realize the universality of common feelings, frustrations, and hopes--and the role that sorrow and sacrifice play in the development of character. One of my favorite scenes is that of the Charity Party, when Francie is torn between her desperate longing for the doll being offered to any "poor child named Mary" and her resentment towards the manner in which affluent individuals approach giving. The author allows Francie to be a child--she lies in order to receive the charity doll, knowing that on the stage in front of her neighborhood peers she is both pathetic for taking charity as well as envied for owning such a rich toy. However, despite giving in to her desire, Francie is also a spirit beyond her years. She walks home both clutching her doll and cursing the insensitive givers, cyring out that for once, people should give to the poor without having to say, "I am rich and you are poor." Another remarkable aspect of the book, further demonstrating it's stark realism, was the fact that Francie never places moral judgement on her father. If we contrast A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with Angela's Ashes, we see two opposing manners in which families respond to alcolohic fathers. Francie's strength, we may surmise, is most likely a product of her genuine belief that she led a happy childhood with two loving parents that had her best interests in mind. While she may later look back and realize her father's problems robbed her of some opportunity, her sense of security and love for her father would still remain intact, and judging from the role her father played in the household, Francie seemed to need a tender male role model to counter her mother's harsh pragmatism towards her children. We also see this in Francie's reaction to her ignorant writing teacher's claim that Francie's stories were "ugly," as Francie recognized that these tales (which were about her relationship with her father) were important and beautiful enough to be saved.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a book that provides deep insight as to how individuals can be stronger, wiser, and more grounded. Above all else, it is an essay on love, trust, and suffering as it relates to the character strength humans need to be survivors. It was after reading this book that I realized for the first time in my life that suffering, though difficult to ride through, really is one of the most positive influences an individual can experience.
A beautiful classic!
I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was about twelve years old, and I decided to give it a whirl once again. I recommend that adults who loved this book as a child return to it because the magic of reading it is as wonderful and beautiful in your adult years as it was when you were a child. The story of Francie Nolan and her family will most likely have a different and interesting effect on the reader, or at least it had a different effect on me this time around. Francie is a bright young girl growing up in a poor, but hardworking family in 1912 Brooklyn. Although her life is a constant struggle over money, she still manages to eke out much joy. The novel, which does not really have a plot, is rather a collection of vignettes about Francie's life. While so much of her life appeared to be conspiring against her success, she never gave in to defeatism. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an inspiring and beautiful story that people of all ages will love. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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