Maxwell's Reviews > A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  Smith
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it was ok
bookshelves: i-own-it, 2016, 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 all of it but not showing it to me. Also knowing that a lot of this is based on the author's life, I would've almost rather read a memoir version of this, similar to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. Overall it was an okay story that I'm SO glad to have finally read (it was on my shelf for years), but it's not one I connected to as strongly as so many others.
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Reading Progress

September 12, 2015 – Shelved
September 12, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 12, 2015 – Shelved as: i-own-it
December 1, 2016 – Started Reading
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
December 1, 2016 – Shelved as: classics
December 1, 2016 –
page 1
0.2% "It's about time. Had this on my shelf for years. Looking forward to reading & discussing it for book club!"
December 1, 2016 –
page 57
11.56% "A bit boring so far to be honest. The writing is okay, but nothing super special"
December 2, 2016 –
page 107
21.7% "It's definitely more engaging now. Still very slow, but I liked learning about Francie's relatives."
December 2, 2016 –
page 143
29.01% "Sadly, I'm just not enjoying this. I'll give it a few more chapters, but if it doesn't get better I'm going to have to put this one down"
December 3, 2016 –
page 200
December 3, 2016 –
page 280
56.8% "The Christmas scene was perfect while I listened to Christmas music and burned a pine candle"
December 4, 2016 –
page 363
December 4, 2016 –
page 399
December 4, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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JustCallMeClint "so much of it felt like things happening to Francie as opposed to her actually doing things." You just described what I did not like about other books, that favor expository storytelling over reactional. :D

Vanessa I had the same response to it, hype machine took a lot away from it for me, but I think I still gave it about a 3.5 stars. Maybe a bit too generous though in hindsight!

message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris same here, i started it this year but never finished it. :/

Meghan To me, this book was less about what happens than building empathy and understanding for the all people around Francie. Everyone has serious flaws, but everyone has some strength or beauty that's highlighted when it would be easier to write them off due to their weaknesses (ex Johnny) or flaws (ex Sissy). It might have been a little stronger if told in first person from Francie's perspective to get a little more understanding of what choices she's making, but I also think a good amount of the story is about her lack of choices and persevering despite of it, so I"m not convinced it would have added a ton.

Kira FlowerChild I think the author is trying to show that *life* is what happens *to* you - as in the saying "life is what happens when you're making other plans." Francie did take a lot more initiative than a lot of women in that era, by getting out and working at a young age. I think this is a book about character and community and the era it is set in, which is the era the author lived through (she made Francie five years younger than she was herself). I thoroughly enjoyed reading the description of life during the earlier twentieth century. Both my grandmothers were born in 1899, so that was when they were growing up, although they both grew up in the country, not the city (as did I). So reading about growing up in the city during that era was very different from anything I experienced, since I was nineteen when I first moved to a "big city."

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