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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Moving Classic
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...
Published on 27 May 2005 by Jana L. Perskie

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Telling not showing
A very readable book though not a page turner as so much of the incident is telegraphed which means the novel loses tension.

By no means an 'art' book but aimed at middle brow readers. Serious in intent, though, and dealing with important aspects of American life: poverty and immigration. An eye opener, in that respect, as I had no knowledge of New York at the...
Published on 21 April 2012 by Willie J


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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. Yet, it perseveres. For Francie and her father the tree symbolizes hope - the blossoming of life against all odds. It is like a beacon of of light in the darkness of their daily lives. Francie has the tenacity of that tree, and remains steadfast to her dreams. Unlike her father, she has the inner strength and resourcefulness to make them come true.
The author poignantly depicts the Nolan's struggles to survive and grow in a world of poverty, hunger, class prejudice and tremendous loss. Francie, a courageous girl, of strong character, comes of age here under extremely difficult circumstances. The portrait of her family members and her relationship with them is beautifully drawn, especially her relationship with her brother Neely. And turn-of-the-century Williamsburg is brought vividly to life. Broader topics are also introduced which enhance the narrative tremendously, such as, WWI, immigration, and politics of the period. Smith's characters are strong and well developed. She uses flashbacks to tell the fascinating story of John Nolan's courtship of Katie, their marriage and early years together.
"A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" is a heartfelt, moving novel which touched me deeply. Betty Smith's prose is powerful, as are her storyline and characters. Author Anna Quindlen writes an excellent Foreward for this edition. This is a book I will keep to reread in the future. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
JANA
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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
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
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
This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
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
By 
A. Lavan "brummie-girl" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tree really does grow..., 2 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
This is the emotional tale of a young girl and her childhood years spent in workingclass Brooklyn during the beginning of the 20th century.
The harsh environment and unglamourous livingconditions are described in a manner that makes one feel like one is actually there.
Because of the authors extraordinary ability to descibe different senses of mood and environmentcharacteristics, you actually get the feeling that you are in Brooklyn at the turn of the century, gazing up at the grand tree which, like the family, seems to live out of dirt and cement, but still, in the end, survives.
In my opinion, it is somewhat of a classic "Cindarella"-story wherein we experience the evolvement the girl undergoes from childhood to adulthood, and can be able to reasonably link her childhood-experiences to the girl she ends up being.
A book definetely worth offering attention to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story, 21 Oct 2013
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This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
This story brings us through the various stages of growing up in a rough, poor area and I thought it was very realistic. The characters were endearing and there were lots of different types of story lines being carried through the book, which kept it interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down and didn't want to finish it..., 2 Jan 2010
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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You know those books that you love so much you race through them and slow down at the end because you don't want it to be over? This was one of those books. It's hard to say what it's really about, other than a young girl growing up in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. It's based very heavily on the author's own childhood, and it's just a wonderful, poignant, real account of the immigrant experience in New York, of a life of poverty and hardship and imagination. Francie is such a brave, resourceful heroine - she really is cast in the mould of Jo from Little Women. I know this is a book I'll come back and read again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Felt like an A Level text, 24 Jan 2009
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
I know I'm going to be shot down in flames for not enjoying this as much as other readers, but for me it was slow going. I can appreciate its merit as a study of a bygone era and there was much to admire in the characterisations, but a book is not enjoyable if I have to force myself to pick it up.
I was reading it for a book group and the ensuing discussion was excellent but it put me in mind of Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which I also found hard work.

The Nolans are a poor Brooklyn family with an industrious mother but an alcoholic father. Not a nasty alcohlic, in fact a fun loving, gentle alcoholic, but not a regular wage earner. The two children, Francie and Neeley, do everything they can to help bring in a few extra coins and the family scrapes by.
As the years pass we follow the family's fortunes through Francie, the eldest, as she goes out into the workplace at 14 and starts to earn a living.

Interestingly, much of the book seems to be autoboigraphical as Betty Smith was born in Brooklyn at about the same time as Francie and would have lived a similarly difficult life. Her Bio does not mention if her father was an alcoholic but no doubt she would have had neighbours with similar problems.

I can see why this has become a classic and the other memebers of our book group gave it high marks, just not my cup of tea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly lovely read, 21 May 2008
This review is from: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Paperback)
I got this book in a pile of 2nd hand books and it was one of only a few I kept. I got into it straight away and was enthralled all the way to the end. The characters are wonderful and rich and despite being a million miles away from Brooklyn and it's history I found it so easy to get entwined in.
It also reminded me how lucky many of us are now compared to the poverty back then.
Highly recommended.
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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Paperback - 17 Sep 1992)
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