A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is considered a modern classic and it throughly lives up to that title. Although the book was first published in 1943, the story is just as enjoyable to read today.
I immediately fell in love with the character of Francie Nolan and as the book went on, I fell in love with so many members of the Nolan family. The most surprising character that I found myself loving was Johnny, Francie’s alcoholic father. In the book, Smith does an amazing job of writing Johnny’s issues with alcoholism honestly, but also beautifully writing Johnny’s love for his family, especially his love for Francie. Katie, Francie’s mom, at times annoyed me with her favoritism of Francie’s brother, Neely, but it felt true to her character and was well written.
The Nolan’s live a very simple life since they are very poor. However, they always find joy in their simple lives. To me, learning to find the joy in whatever life we are given was a wondeful reminder.
I find myself continuing to wonder about what happens in the lives of all of the characters in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn after the story ends. I was throughly invested in the lives of each of these characters and their story will stay with me for a long time. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith truly is a wonderful modern classic.
I read this book as part of a readalong group on Goodreads. This book has so many great themes to explore that I believe reading it with others added so much to the book. I would highly recommend this book for bookclubs, buddy reads, readalongs etc. There’s so much to talk about as the reader goes through the book and takes a ride through the lives of the Nolan family.
The writing in this book was so beautiful that as I read the book, I couldn’t help tabbing up my favorite parts of the book. Some of my favorite non-spoiler quotes from the book are:
“The Nolans just couldn’t get enough of life. They lived their own lives up to the hilt but that wasn’t enough. They had to fill in on the lives of all the people they made contact with.”
-pg. 52 “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
“Francie thought that all the books in the world were in that library and she had a plan about reading all the books in the world. She was reading a book a day in alphabetical order and not skipping the dry ones. She remembered the first author had been Abbott. She had been reading a book a day for a long time now and she was still in the B’s…For all her enthusiasm, she had to admit that some of the B’s had been hard going. But Francie was a reader. She read everything she could find: trash, classics, time’s tables and grocer’s price list. Some of the reading had been wonderful; the Louisa Alcott books for example. She planned to read all the books over again when she finished with the Z’s.
Saturday’s were different. She treated herself by reading a book not in the alphabetical sequence.”
-pg. 22-23 “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
‘”I know there is no Santa Claus.”
“Yet you must teach the child that these things are so.”
“Why? When I, myself, do not believe?”
“Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “The child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination.”‘
-pg. 84 “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith