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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  388,444 ratings  ·  20,729 reviews
The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of ...more
Paperback, Deckle Page Edition, 496 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published August 18th 1943)
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Jim It might not be an easy book for some but based on your books I think you will do fine. It is engrossing and well written. It is well worth it just to…moreIt might not be an easy book for some but based on your books I think you will do fine. It is engrossing and well written. It is well worth it just to understand what life was like then.(less)

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Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
Some books give young girls dreams of ponies, kittens, and visions of eternal love. This book is not one of them.

If I were to make a metaphor, this book would be the equivalent of the ice bucket challenge. It offers no platitudes, it is harsh, realistic. It slaps you in the face with reality, a reality that is very rarely pleasant.

And it is also one of the best young adult books I have ever read.

I first read this book as a young teen, perhaps when I was 13 or 14. The main lesson I learned from i
...more
Maggie Campbell
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
May 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
{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
Peter Derk
Apr 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
Brina
During my adolescent years a short run program on television was Brooklyn Bridge, a show about life in Brooklyn during the 1950s. The last line of the show's theme song was "that place just over the Brooklyn Bridge" will always be home to me. When I think of Brooklyn, my mind goes back to a more wholesome time when city children could stay out late and parents did not have to worry about their well being, where children frequented the penny candy store and rode on paper routes after school. This ...more
F
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, usa
Loved it from page 1

Slow paced and really descriptive but I loved it.

I really enjoyed learning about life back then for the Nolans
Highs and lows of life and daily experience

I was so emotionally attached to Francie. She was a brillant character and I loved her to pieces
Kenny
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first time or last time: Then your time on earth will be filed with glory.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith


1

This may well be one of the top 5 books I have ever read. It is an amazing piece of fiction & one of those books that stays with you long after you've read it.

This was Betty Smith’s first novel and it is an American classic; it was an immediate bestseller when it was published in 1943. Smith drew from her own experience g
...more
Debra
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
I had heard of this book quite frequently, but for some reason or another never picked it up.

Then years ago, my book club decided to read it. What a Joy! What a Pleasure! I loved reading about this young girl who loved to read as much as I did. How I could relate to her love of going to the library and finding that special book - that treasure! Thus, this book became my treasure. It holds a place on my favorite book list!

Francie Nolan is a very poor young girl living in the slums of Williamsbur
...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
My story of this book. I never read this back during my school days though I was probably given the opportunity. I had two elective English classes where we were given a choice between three books, this was probably one but I chose another. Sometime within the passing years I bought a copy and put it in the book shelf that is next to my television, where it has stared at me for years, subtly asking ng is it my turn yet? When my friend Brina said she was reading this book and did anyone want to r ...more
Julia
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-classics
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
Fabian
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The tree that grows in Brooklyn isn't really about Brooklyn at all. It's an encapsulation of the experience of the immigrant, with the first generation American-born as astonished observer. And liver. From the eyes of ever-evolving Francie, who writes about it all, writing herself out of nightmarish situations (deaths, hunger, & a sexual deviant that lingers in the hallways) and childhood idylls (trips to the candy store... & feeling validated, loved, cared for). She describes things that are fu ...more
Sarah
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a semi-autobiographical 1943 novel written by Betty Smith.

The story focuses on an impoverished but aspirational adolescent girl and her family living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, during the first two decades of the 20th century.

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and crue
...more
Calista
This feels autobiographical. It does seem to be based off the childhood experiences of Betty.

The beginning went into the history of the Nolan family and I'm sure this set the stage, but it dragged and I almost stopped reading. I felt like it took forever to read this book. It was worth it. The story does grow inside you somehow. This is not the usual genre I read.

I also found the first 3/4 of the book very very stressful. They lived poor and there was a stress always about where the money was
...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
SimitudeSims
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. The character were so colorful and full of life. It's described so we'll that I feel like I lived there too. No wonder it's a classic. I can't believe it took me so long to read it.
Blake Crouch
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read concurrently with my son. They don't do characterization like this anymore. Rich, multi-layered, and ultimately a song of hope. One of my fave reads of recent years.
Maxwell
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, classics
2.5 stars This book is loved by so many people that I think I expected too much from it. It's a good coming-of-age story that follows Francie Nolan as she grows up in Brooklyn during the early 1900's. I think most of the novelty of the story is how different our world is 100 years later. The writing didn't really do much for me—so much of it felt like things happening to Francie as opposed to her actually doing things. And that held me at a distance. I felt like Betty Smith was just telling me a ...more
PattyMacDotComma
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5★
“Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It's growing out of sour earth. And it's strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way."


That is Katie’s rebuttal to ‘friends’ who told her that Francie was such a sickly baby that it would be for the best if she died. Little did they know what strength of character Katie had and Francie developed. It’s a terrifi
...more
Meredith Holley
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: High school students, U.S. history classes
Recommended to Meredith 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
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
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Okaaaay. No, it's not okay! It's insane and depression-inducing. And it totally wasn't 'it' for me. I wasn't in the mood for being any further depressed, thank you very much not! But, well, I got in for this ride and I can't blame anyone (other than my roving eyes & unstructured reading habits) for me reading it.

And they say Dostoyevsky's miserable! Frankly, this isn't a far cry from him concerning inducing depression!

Basically, it's the great-grandmother of The Glass Castle but without all the
...more
Cheryl
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who find humanity in words
Shelves: fiction, vintage
Coffee stains form tiny trails across the cover of my copy, which goes to show how long I stayed with this book. Although written with lucid simplicity, as one would expect from a bildungsroman, I read it slowly. I savored each moment with Francie, a girl with whom I found so much in common (to say how is to tell a meandering story, for our childhoods are so different and yet so similar). Perhaps this is the appeal of this American classic, its transcendence into the psyche of each reader's chil ...more
Julie
In 1943 the average Caucasian American still believed that people of other races were contaminating swimming pools and public restrooms with their skin and that women of all races were second-class citizens. Out of this backdrop stepped a skinny white girl from Brooklyn who managed to publish a ridiculously modern coming-of-age novel and introduced the world to Francie Nolan.

As well-read as I am, I had not met Francie Nolan until this week of my life, and I feel a great regret for not knowing he
...more
Karina
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read the blurb and no one I knew read this to tell me about it. I was under the impression it was a historical fiction book about overcoming racism in Brooklyn, New York. I was completely wrong but not disappointed. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. A GR friend made a comment about her wishing she could read it for the first time again and I have come to see what she means.

I did not like reading the foreword. It gave me spoilers about the story and the finale of Francie. Would not recomme
...more
B the BookAddict
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Most readers
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Anastasia
Shelves: favorites

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is the story of Francie (Frances) Nolan growing up in the slums of Brooklyn in 1912. Over the years, it has been called a timeless classic, a description which will undoubtedly remain steadfast.

“Francie’s mother is small and pretty but steely and tough but her father is warm and charming and, above all, a prisoner of his need for drink.”* Kate, the mother, is the breadwinner of the family, clean houses for the money, which feeds, clothes and keep the family warm (when t
...more
Celeste
Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The only thing that could have improved my experience with this book would have been finding it fifteen years sooner. I wish twelve year-old me had known this book existed, and had been able to experience the life of Francie Nolan when we were closer to the same age. But even as an adult, I’ve found a kindred spirit in this scrappy little girl from Brooklyn, and watching her grow up and experience both heartaches and triumph was one of the most wonderful reading jour ...more
Daniella
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
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
Ginger
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, 2019
ALL THE STARS!

Do you like historical fiction? Do you like coming-to-age stories?

Then look no further then reading this wonderful and brilliant book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!

I was impressed with this classic. The writing was great and descriptive. The characters in this book are well formed and have their own voices. The characterization of Francie is just lovely.

I dare you not to like this little girl that turns into a young woman!!
The fight and survivor mentality she has while living in povert
...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

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