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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn [Hardcover]

Anna Quindlen , Betty Smith
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 2001
A novel which was first published in 1944 and tells the story of a turn-of-the-century immigrant family struggling to survive and rise above the squalor, poverty and violence surrounding their Brooklyn tenement home. It features a colourful cast of relatives and neighbours.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060001941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060001940
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,619,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny candy connoisseur and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colourful, 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 a brother who will always be the favoured 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 more than 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book's humour and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics--and in the hearts of readers, young and old. (Ages 10 and up) --Emilie Coulter, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life . . . If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience... It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships." (New York Times)

"This story radiates life." (Daily Telegraph)

"One of the books of the century" (New York Public Library) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Moving Classic 27 May 2005
I was seriously deprived as an adolescent. I never even heard of Betty Smith's classic novel "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," let alone read it. And I was an avid reader who lived relatively close to Brooklyn. Whatever the reason for this significant omission in my early literary development, I remedied the situation recently, (yes, it took me a while). I can only echo here what millions of other readers have said since the book's publication in 1943, this is an extraordinary novel which enriches and delights. I can understand why The New York Public Library chose it as one of the "Books of the Century."
Ms. Smith grew up in Brooklyn and drew from her own experiences to portray the hardships of the Nolans, a tenement family living in that borough's Williamsburg slums during the early part of the 20 century. Teenage Francie Nolan is an avid reader who wants to become a writer. She adores her father John, an alcoholic with a multitude of pipe dreams. He, in turn, loves his children and tries to be a good father, but he is not able to carry out his responsibilities. Nolan has become a dissipated man due to his alcohol addiction. Francie believes in him regardless, (and she's the only one), because they're soul-mates. Although it seems contradictory, the girl also possesses a strong practical streak. Her mother, Katie, abandoned all illusions for a better life long ago. She is rendered almost emotionless by a surfeit of her husband's grand schemes. However she stresses to her children that education is the only path out of the tenements. Grandma Rommely, Katie's mother, also reinforces the importance of education.
There is a single ordinary tree visible from the Nolan's tenement window. It grows doggedly through the cement, in spite of harsh conditions which thwart it's development.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WOW 24 Nov 2001
By A Customer
I read this book a few months back, simply because it sounded really good. After I'd really gotten into it, I couldn't put it down. It is both inspiring and astounding, which is hard to find in a book. It really portrays how a working-class family lived in Brooklyn in the 1900s, and, although the jumps from time-to-time are a little confusing, they are very real, and help you to really understand the family. I actually cried at several points in this book, even though what was coming was inevitable, and I truly think it is a great book for all ages (I'm only 12!)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN AMERICAN CLASSIC... 29 May 2007
Written over sixty years ago, time has not diminished the capacity of this book to capture the reader's heart. This coming of age story that takes place in turn of the century Brooklyn will simply enthrall the reader with its descriptive passages and its richly developed characters. This book survives the passage of time without becoming anachronistic, because the themes upon which it touches are universal ones.

The story centers on the Nolan family. The central character is the daughter, Mary Frances Nolan. Known as "Francie" to all and sundry, she is an intelligent child growing up in poverty in the tenements of Brooklyn with her charming father, a singing waiter and an alcoholic, her hard-working and practical, no-nonsense mother, and her younger brother, who enjoys favored son status in his mother's heart. Surrounding the family are a host of characters that are richly drawn and serve to add to the ambiance of the story as it enfolds.

The events that unfold are seen through Francie's eyes. Her family's struggle with poverty, her father's alcoholism, her mother's steely-eyed determination to keep her family afloat, and Francie's thirst for knowledge and desire for higher education all serve to make this child strong and thrive, where others might only despair. Such is Francie's strength of character. It is that strength that helps her to battle her self-doubts, her loneliness, and lack of friends, while growing up.

This is a beautifully rendered story, a true American classic that will keep the reader turning its pages.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book stayed with me. 20 Feb 2011
I first read this book when I was 13, (am now 59) and stayed up all night to finish it! Even though I must have read thousands of books since, this one is the first I think of when asked which is my favourite book. It provides an understandable picture of life in Brooklyn at the time, and the dynamics of the family members are moving, funny, inspirational and tragic all at the same time....Quite simply the best book I've ever read, and a story I often think about!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a life affirming read 6 Nov 2009
I first read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' when I was 15. My father was given it by one of his many drinking buddies and brought it home with him. He gave it to me as I was an avid reader and would pretty much read anything I could lay my hands on (even a random book like this one seemed) Little did I know the effect this novel would have on me. It is one of the most memorable and moving books that I have ever read.

I have read it at least six times since that first time. I read it when I need to feel inspired and to be reassured at the resilience, bravery and beauty of the human spirit. It is beautifully written but at the same time immensely readable. Francie is a most extraordinary child - her relationships with her mother and father in particular are moving and real. When I've recommended it to others though I have found it hard to explain why it is so special - it doesn't have a tightly drawn plot - it is really all about characterisation and emotion whilst remaining as hard to put down as a thriller. I guess what I'm saying is it is a novel that is hard to categorise which makes it all the more special.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Was recommended this book by a friend
Was recommended this book by a friend. It was a really good read and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a love story.
Published 22 days ago by jean robinson
2.0 out of 5 stars Why does it take so long to post a book from UK to Ireland?
The book was in relatively poor condition, in that pages were yellowed, but it was readable. I thought it was too expensive, and that the postage from the UK to ireland was far too... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Margaret Leahy
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Bought this for my sister for Xmas as I had my own copy and absolutely loved this classic novel by Betty Smith. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Polly Short
5.0 out of 5 stars MARVELLOUS STORY
I have read this story over and over. That's how it is with great stories; each read is like the first time.
Published 4 months ago by Anne Gresham
4.0 out of 5 stars lovely story
Loved this book ,gentle story about growing up in New York late 19th early 20th century with very little money and all the troubles that brings
Published 6 months ago by G. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club choice
I needed a book choice and this was perfect and an enjoyable read. I would recommend purchasing books from amazon as it came quickly and well packaged.
Published 6 months ago by Margaret Boswell
5.0 out of 5 stars Aa Tree Grows in Brooklyn
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is absolutely wonderful and is a classic which I think will continue to bringing joy for many years to come. Read more
Published 7 months ago by penrhynian
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story
This story brings us through the various stages of growing up in a rough, poor area and I thought it was very realistic. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sarah b
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read only one book make it this one.
Like another reviewer, I can't explain why it took me so long to discover this book. I can vaguely remember the advertisements for the Elia Kazan film based on it, but not the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. F. Taylor
2.0 out of 5 stars barbara feltwell
sorry I did not like this book I found it quite boring so will not have any more pity but that is how I felt
Published 14 months ago by Barbara Feltwell
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