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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Paperback – 17 Sep 1992
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"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)
Francie Nolan is a Brooklyn girl with a Brooklyn name and a Brooklyn accent. Her family are brave, devoted immigrants, struggling to survive and rise above the squalor, poverty and violence that surround their tenement home.See all Product description
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Centred around Francie, the daughter of a hardworking mother (“with a fierce desire for survival” p86) and an out-of-work drunken but loveable father (“hankering after immortality which made him a useless dreamer”), we see the family through the eyes of the young girl over the course of her childhood until Francie is able to earn a living for herself.
The book oozes warmth and cosiness. Though there are severe hardships to endure, they are overcome by means of determination and a caring network of family and friends.
What sets this apart from so many other novels is the delicious vocabulary. I particularly admired the stories the girl attached to numbers (see p165). Even things as ordinary as bricks, and hearth, and bathtubs are imaginatively described (p127).
So well conceived, the tale seems obviously autobiographical, but evidently it is not – Betty Smith claims this to be merely the product of her creative imagination.
Watch the film as well, though the film doesn’t follow Francie into the workplace. The film also avoids the controversy of the attempted sexual attack on the preteen girl by a serial maniac, though both film and book refer to the extra ‘touching’ penny the girl receives every time she visited the junk man.
Page 145 sums up the novel rather nicely. “A person who pulls himself up from a low environment via the boot straps has two choices: having risen above his environment, he can forget it; or, he can rise above it and never forget it and keep compassion and understanding in his heart for those he has left behind him in the cruel up-climb.” This book follows the latter path.