A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Review)

Book cover for "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith.Title: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Author: Betty Smith

Narrator: Kate Burton

Publication Year: 1943

Pages: 443 (audio length: 18 hours)

Genre: Fiction

Source: Free audiobook from AudioSync

From the cover:

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 Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

I don’t think that I can do this book much justice, but I’m going to try.

All that I knew about Betty Smith’s famous novel going in was that it was famous. I didn’t know why, or what it was about, or anything … just that it was supposed to be a modern classic.

Having now read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I definitely understand why that is so.

The story of Francie’s “coming of age” in poverty with her parents in Brooklyn is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It was heart-wrenching to hear about the things that Francie, Neeley, and their parents had to live with on a day to day basis. Smith’s novel gave an extremely accurate look into the lives of the working poor in the pre-war and war period in New York’s buroughs, something that most people can only imagine. And in that telling, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn manages to show the reader a very lonely, difficult, and disappointing existence that most will never know.

And that, I think, is the primary reason why I loved this book, and why so many before me have as well. There’s just something about a story that can bring you right into it and see the darkness and the humanity of the characters and the situations they face. The fact that I listened to it as an audiobook was a part of my enjoyment, but not all of it; it was nice to hear the Brooklyn accent, but at times I wished that I could be reading the text itself without the added layer of someone else’s interpretation. I think, though, that I would have enjoyed the novel in either medium.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was utterly fantastic: it was beautiful and emotional and real, and probably one of my favourite reads so far this year.


3 thoughts on “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Review)”

  1. Pingback: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith | Iris on Books

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