A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  222,767 ratings  ·  12,101 reviews
Please don't delete. This edition was published pre-ISBN.

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 favo...more
Hardcover, Illustrated Edition, 420 pages
Published by Harper & Row, Publishers (first published 1943)
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Maggie Campbell
"Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well-dressed. Let me be sincere- be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

"Don't say that. It's not better to die. W...more
Casey
{Yup, I'm reading it AGAIN.}

I sob, and I mean sob, every time I read this book. It's such a simple story--Francie Nolan is a smart little girl who's trying to find beauty in her sometimes ugly, always poverty-stricken life. Her adored father is wonderful, but too plagued by his own demons to support his family. Her mother loves her children fiercely but is often harsh because she thinks it's her job to keep them grounded in reality (oh, and she seems to love Francie's brother more). Her aunt is...more
Julia
Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" has been passed down through at least three or four generations and is highly regarded as a classic novel perfect for any young adult bent on entering adulthood and escaping from the gaping clutches of a complicated childhood.
While it was not for those reasons that I first picked up "Brooklyn," I came to regard it as one of the finest books that I had ever read. At first glance, it is a very deceitful book: short; words spaced nicely apart; and, a largis...more
Peter Derk
Well, the tree grows very slowly and with exhaustive detail.

Couldn't get through this one. Actually, that's not entirely true. I could have. And I don't mean that in the way of a mountain climber who just couldn't make it to the top and then warps reality by looking back at it. No, it's more like "couldn't" as in "I couldn't eat another hashbrown from my McDonald's breakfast." Sure, I COULD have. It just didn't seem worth the pain.

I get why this book is a classic, I think. My brother and I argue...more
Sarah Null
Francie stood on tiptoe and stretched her arms wide. "Oh, I want to hold it all!" she cried. "I want to hold the way the night is - cold without wind. And the way the stars are so near and shiny. I want to hold all of it tight until it hollers out, 'Let me go! Let me go!'"

The title of this novel refers to a tree that grows persistently up through the concrete and harsh conditions of a poor tenement neighborhood in early 1900s Brooklyn. But it is also a metaphor for the novel's protagonist, Franc...more
Nataliya

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a quiet, gentle, understated and yet at the same time unexpectedly scathing at times book that offers a window (or a view from a fire escape, if you please) into a little corner of the world a century ago, and yet still has the power to resonate with readers of today.

After all, the world has moved forward, yes, but the essential human soul remains the same, and the obstacles in human lives - poverty, inequality, cruelty, and blind self-righteousness - are in no dange...more
Sparrow
Jun 16, 2009 Sparrow rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: High school students, U.S. history classes
Recommended to Sparrow by: Amanda Coleman
It is a tribute to Jeanette Walls that I could not get through this book without comparing it dozens of times to The Glass Castle, with The Glass Castle coming off as its genius granddaughter or fashionable little sister. I probably should have read this first, as a child or teenager, but it’s too late for that now. No regrets! I could not help wondering why Betty Smith wrote this story as fiction rather than memoir, and the fact of it being fiction made me notice a lack of complexity in Francie...more
Daniella
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my absolute favorite book of all time.

While the story is set at the turn of the century (1902-1919) and contains many historical elements that may feel alien to the modern reader, the message that is subtly and intricately woven into the fabric of the story is one that I feel not only transcends the ages, but also one with which many of us can identify.

The protagonist, Francie, and her family represent the sort of wonderfully complex characters who come alive in the r...more
El
I felt like the last person in the world to have read this book, and based on what everyone has said about it over the years, I expected this to be the next best thing after the Crispy Potato Soft Taco at Taco Bell. But as I read the first 200 pages, I thought everyone was out of their freaking minds. This, I thought, is what everyone has been raving about for as long as I can remember? I even did a quick peek at my GR friends list - you people love this book. I couldn't figure out why.

It starte...more
Luann
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is another classic that I've always heard about, but never read - until now! And it's another one that I wish I had read sooner! If someone told me that this was an autobiography, I would believe it. It was extremely believable and well-written. Betty Smith completely drew me into Francie Nolan's world. I feel like I was there and lived that life with her - which is amazing because my life and experiences are very different from Francie's world as a poor young girl growi...more
Beth
I think my mom once said that this was her favorite book, and yet somehow I hadn’t read it until now. In my early teens, I remember coming across a paperback edition that had been lying around the house … and not making it past the first couple pages. The writing was way over my head (which had been addled by too much fluff reading of Baby-sitters Club, probably).

It’s probably for the best, though, for while this book centers around the young girl Francie Nolan, this coming-of-age story is appro...more
Sue
Another American classic finally read. I'm very glad to have finally experienced this book. It was really more than I expected, a wonderful story of a young girl growing up in early twentieth century Brooklyn with her parents and brother. The life was hard with family foremost but not perfect. The details were perfect, from the multiple uses for bread to stretch out meals to details from school experiences to conversations between mother and daughter revealing depths of honesty and past despair....more
Shayantani Das
“Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

When I was just 10 pages i...more
Priscilla
Loved it! A fantastic coming of age story.

Initial Thoughts:
1. Very relatable. Frances Nolan was born into a family that didn't have much, but managed to make it work every day. A great story of perseverance and determination.
2. Thoughtful and honest. I appreciated the realities Betty Smith brought forth, and the profound words that give strength to those who struggle.
3. Slow read. It's a book that I wanted to take my time with and absorb each experience Frances and her family was going through.
4...more
midnightfaerie
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is an amazing story of a girl coming of age in the 1900's. She lives in the poor part of Brooklyn and tells the story of her life growing up, learning to deal with harsh realities and still finding the wonder in life and holding onto it. Smith is a brilliant writer. Her depiction of reality in such a precarious time is both insightful and a joy to read. You are drawn into Francie's story, the disappointments in life, the sadness, and the wonderful viewpoin...more
Uci
Saya sempat bertanya-tanya mengapa harus ada kata pengantar dari Anne Quindlen (novelis, jurnalis dan kolumnis AS) untuk novel ini. Namun setelah membacanya, saya rasa novel yang awalnya dibuat sebagai memoar ini memang layak diberi catatan khusus. Pembaca yang mengharapkan plot atau konflik seru mungkin harus menelan kecewa, karena novel ini, seperti lazimnya sebuah memoar, 'hanya' bercerita tentang perjalanan hidup, bukan ledakan-ledakan peristiwa yang membuat pembaca ikut pontang-panting.

Nam...more
Mariel
Sep 15, 2010 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone with a heart
Recommended to Mariel by: young me found it by sheer luck
I read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn when I was about fourteen years of age. I've not reread it since, so this is more of a review of the value of the long lasting impression it made on me in my formative years (although I believe all of my years are formative ones).

Betty Smith's novel is in some ways autobiographical. If not, there are parallels in a cracked two-way mirror kinda way. I imagine the author would peer through the holes onto the other side and recognize Betty Smith.

There are parts of th...more
Bonnie
Nov 15, 2008 Bonnie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bonnie by: Candas Jane Dorsey
Shelves: reviewed-books
Recommended to me by the same person who recommended the Helen Forrester books. I thought of this book (early 20th C), as a well-crafted, character-driven novel. It is a very moving coming-of-age novel, and has been "Selected as one of the books of the Century by the New York Public Library."

As Anna Quindlen quoted at the end of her forward: Francie does not say "good-bye" to the tenements for the tragedies but to the girl she once was, the illusions she had, the life she once led.

Originally pri...more
Wendy Darling
I can't believe I hadn't read this until now! So moving and shocking and lovely all at once.

We're discussing on the blog on Friday, August 29th--so happy that Kim suggested that we read this for our classics readalong series.
Diane D.
Such a wonderful book! Rightfully called 'classic' and my review would never be able to do this book justice. First off, I was always embarrassed that I hadn't read this book before now, and second, I got it from the library and after having read, I think it's one that every book lover should own.

This was such an honest and poignant story set in Brooklyn, NY, beginning in the summer of 1912. We meet our main character, Francie Nolan, as well as her mother (Katie), Johnny (Papa!) Neeley (brother)...more
Thomas
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn revolves around Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York. The plot of this novel does not drift from event to event, at least not in a way that fits standard plot summary - rather, it flows like fine water, split into five sections that match the stages of Francie's coming of age. With warm prose Betty Smith addresses themes such as poverty, loss of innocence, and gender roles in a book she claims to have written without any intended mess...more
Cher
3 stars - It was good.

After hearing from so many of my friends that this was an endearing, well-loved, favorite classic, I'm afraid it did not meet my expectations. I really enjoyed the first half, particularly when the author gives you the back story of the main character's grandparents and parents, but the second half felt like a chore to get through at times (making me want to 23 skidoo). There are beautiful quotes throughout and I enjoyed the author's way with words, but the plot needed more...more
Ellie
This is a heartfelt, moving novel which touched me deeply. It's one of those books that you love instantly and race through them, and slow down at the end because you don't want it to be over. The characters are wonderful and rich, and despite being a million miles away from Brooklyn and its history, I found it so easy to get entwined in. I know this is a book that I'll come back to and read over and over again. I only wish Betty Smith had written a sequel.
Uncle
Maudie was an orphan who lived with two maiden aunts who worked at home. They made ladies’ shrouds for a living at so much per dozen for a casket company. They made satin tufted shrouds: whites ones for dead virgins, pale lavender for the young married, purple for the middle-aged and black for the old. Maudie brought some pieces. She thought Francie might like to make something out of them. Francie pretended to be glad but shuddered as she put the gleaming scraps away.-Betty Smith, A Tree Grows...more
Jason
a combination of charlotte bronte, charles dickens, and theodore dreiser...or any one of the american realists...
suffers a bit from the pauper syndrome, for some reason this affliction only effected books written from say 1800 to 1940...
also a variation on the ordeal novel...(see comments on dave egger's 'what is the what')...
around 200 pages in and francie is more of a figure of pain and sorrow than a character i feel i really know...she feels like a mop that smith is using to soak up all the l...more
Sarah
The last book I read in 2008, and what a book! The prose is heartbreakingly beautiful, and the story is very sad -- but still hopeful and uplifting. There is a nice mixture of humor and love as well and it made me nostalgic for a time and place I've never experienced. I can't think of a coming of age book that has touched me this much, I seriously burst into tears three or four times while reading it. I wonder if I would have felt differently if I'd read it in school, or when I was the same age...more
Kelley
Sep 17, 2008 Kelley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls 15 plus
Warning, contains spoilers.



My Dad's birthday is March 17. Once again, I found myself drawn to listening to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn again just before his birthday. It seems to be an emotional habit. Once again I am joined to my fictional kindred Francie Nolan. I am not like her in every way, but the parallels continue to astonish me. How did Betty Smith know?

Francie and Kelley:
Irish Catholic charming musical handsome daddy
Alcoholic daddy— mine had 3 DUIs
Dad who took temp work and had a harder an...more
Kathy Kubik
OPENING LINE: "Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York."

I found a beautiful hardcover first printing of this book in a used bookstore in South Haven, Michigan. I remember that my writing mentor, Carol said this was a favorite book of hers, and I had wanted to read it since. I am almost done with this book, I love it. The opening introduces the most important symbol in the book, which is the tree referred to in the title. I believe the tree represents hope.

"There is a certain kind o...more
Chrissie
ON COMPLETION:
My views expressed below remain unchanged, having completed the novel. I will simply add a few points. Although I loved this book as a child, reading it as an adult gave me less. In my opinion this book is written for young adults. For this audience it is absolutely perfect and worthy five stars, but as an adult reading it, I could only give it three. The book does a magnificent job of portraying how parents love each of their children differently. Equally, but differently. It is a...more
Martha
This beautiful book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, by Betty Smith, has been around since 1943, and here it is 2014 when I finally read it. Many people read this when they were younger as I have seen in the reviews, but somehow I missed it. Well, I am glad I picked it up now because I probably would have overlooked much of the poignant aspects when I was younger.

I was all alone in the house (kids and hubby were out) when I finished reading this wonderful novel; complete peace and quiet. But, then,...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Betty Smith (AKA Sophina Elisabeth Wehner): Born- December 15, 1896; Died- January 17, 1972

Born in Brooklyn, New York to German immigrants, she grew up poor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. These experiences served as the framework to her first novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (19...more
More about Betty Smith...
Joy in the Morning Maggie Now A Tree Grows in Brooklyn & Maggie-Now Tomorrow Will Be Better A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)

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