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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn [Paperback]

Betty Smith
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (379 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 6 2005 Perennial Classics

The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

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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 --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.” (New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN AMERICAN CLASSIC... Dec 10 2007
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
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 transpire in the book 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a wonderful story of love and family where love wins out and love endures in spite of imperfections and adversity. It is good for us to read about the poverty and hunger people live through and work so hard to survive. Each character in the book was interesting in their own way. I recommend this book to everyone
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching, Inspiring, Hard to Put Down Sept. 25 2011
By CanadianMother TOP 500 REVIEWER
I picked this book up on the recommendation of a friend, who mentioned that reading it made her feel rich in comparison to the family in the book. I was therefore a bit nervous that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn might be a depressing story. But my fears were unfounded. In reality, this book is an uplifting, inspiring story of how one family, living in a poor neighbourhood of Brooklyn in the early 1900s, manage to not only survive, but to pull themselves up to better circumstances, through hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude. The setting, which in reality is the exact neighbourhood the author grew up in, is fully realized and filled with interesting and colourful details and happenings.

The main character in the book is a book-loving girl named Francie, who is a realistic, likeable character. In fact, all the characters in this book are realistic and likeable. I felt when I was reading it like they were real people whom I came to care about. And when the story came to an end, I felt sorry that I had to say goodbye to them. I wanted to find out what happened next to Katie, Francie, and Neely, as well as Aunt Sissy and her children.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these characters, and I was touched by the love they showed for each other. Yes, there is some sadness in the book, and I did cry a few times. But the general tone of the book is an uplifting one. I'm glad I read this book, and I know that I will remember it for a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This story of a girl who comes of age just before the Roaring Twenties of the 20th century reaches across the changes of the last 100 years to resonate just as powerfully today. As a boomer who read this book in her early 20s I loved Francie Nolan then and reading it again at age 63 I love her now. She is as tough and tenacious as the tree that grows outside her Brooklyn apartment in a poor, hard-scrabble neighbourhood. She beats the odds: poverty, an alcoholic father, sibling rivalry for her mother's affection, the heartache of first love. The vivid re-creation of that era and place captivates the reader and I believe the young women of today who rediscover this gem of a novel will get lost in Francie's world and find the enchantment I did. A book for all times and all seasons!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Jan. 11 2007
This is a novel to be read and enjoyed for many different reasons. As an initial matter, it paints a portrait of Brooklyn at the turn of the twentieth century. Many books contain descriptions, but this book contains something more. I could hear the chaos on the streets, including the noisy children, horses and vendors. I could smell and taste the coffee that Francie's mother left boiling on the stove at all hours of the day and night. It went beyond mere description--this novel involved all of my senses and made me truly feel what it was like to live in that time and place.

Beyond the amazing imagery is a somewhat simple story of a family in crisis. Johnny, the father, drinks too much and can't hold a job but is the light and life of the family. Katie, the mother, loves her family ferociously, but has been imbittered by the strain that Johnny and their perpetual state of poverty places upon her. The story truly belongs to Francie and Neely, the two children, who survive by staying together, inventing stories and games for each other, and finding joy in their meager surroundings.

The most noteworthy aspect of the novel, to me, was its utter anger. I have heard Steinbeck's Travels with Charley described as "an angry book". A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was much angrier. Francie's childlike but astute observations concerning how society ignores the needs and struggles of the working poor explode with anger. Francie's shining moment is when she shames the doctor who comments in front of her that all poor people are dirty, without thinking that she and her brother can understand him. Sissy's shining moment is when she shames Francie's teacher who ignores poor children to the point that she fails to release them to use the bathroom, causing them to have humiliating accidents.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a very good read.
Published 8 days ago by mbwoolridge Betty Woolridge
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic!
A story of an ordinary family struggling to make ends meet in difficult times. It could almost be 'the book about nothing', yet like the comedy show with the same catch line, I... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Susan G
5.0 out of 5 stars First Metaphors to Lean Upon
I was 10 years old when I read this wonderful book about a strong mother and an equally strong tree outside her apartment window. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Eleanor Cowan
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Classic
A beautiful story set in Brooklyn--Williamsburg really--when it was a neighbourhood for the poor. It documents one family, as seen through the eyes of its protagonist, through its... Read more
Published 6 months ago by onlygoodbooksplease
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This book is truly brilliant. It is really beautifully written, thought-provoking, evocative and moving; a real classic and definite must-read!
Published 10 months ago by Angela B
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and movie
What can you say about a classic? This is known to many now as just a movie, but I have to say that the book is even better. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2006 by Blance of Streetcar land
5.0 out of 5 stars I've lived it--and a tree really does grow
When I got this book, I had a warm feeling because I knew it was a classic and because I rarely get American books. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2005 by ThomsEBynum
5.0 out of 5 stars Only two
There are only two books that I've read recently that I can recommend to the average Amazon buyer. The first is McCrae's "The Bark of the Dogwood" which is probably the... Read more
Published on July 22 2004
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