A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

How have I never read this book before? Why didn’t my high school force me to read it, as they did other novels that so impacted my life, like Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, or The Great Gatsby? I wish that someone had made me read this book long ago, but I’m also excited to have discovered the beauty of Smith’s book on my own, as an adult, when I could appreciate it for its own merits and not because I was supposed to.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been on my ‘to read’ list for the last year or so, and I have to admit I was kind of dreading reading it. Sometimes “classics” do that to me.  I finally picked it up on audio, considering that to be a compromise – I could listen to it in my car driving to and from work without devoting my full reading time and attention to the novel.

From the very first words that narrator Barbara Rosenblat spoke, I was completely hooked. Smith’s story follows the life of Francie Nolan, a little girl growing up in Brooklyn during the early part of the 20th century. Though mainly a coming-of-age novel, the book winds its way throughout decades backwards and forwards, and into the lives of Francie’s parents and extended family.

Although Francie grew up poor in Brooklyn, concerned with the entry of the U.S. into the first World War, her father’s alcoholism and where her next meal would come from, she is a character that can still be related to today. I thoroughly enjoyed this classic, and would whole-heartedly recommend the audio version.

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One Response to “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith”

  1. Dan B. Says:

    Our classics book club did this a few years ago and it is still one my favorite books that we’ve read! (I’d put it right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.) We also had an event with local author and Betty Smith biographer Valerie Yow (author of Betty Smith: Life of the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) that was quite interesting.

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