A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Book Review

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Okay, who is that neglected to tell me I should read this book years and years ago? Whoever you are, you are TOTALLY fired.

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is the story of Francie Nolan and her family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Nolans don’t have much money, scrimping and saving to even get by, but they do have determination. Francie’s mother, Katie, is determined to do what it takes to keep her family together and keep them from feeling too much deprivation. Francie is determined to get as much education as possible and frequently loses herself in the world of books.

I remember this being one of the books in the Readers Digest Condensed Books series we had when I was growing up. I know that abridgments are mildly evil, but the books were beautiful and I loved to pick them up. I know I read many of the works out of those books, but I always avoided “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” because I thought the title sounded totally boring.

I really, really wish I hadn’t prejudged this book, but I’m also really, really thankful to Heather for picking this for our Classic Reads Book Club. I loved it. L.O.V.E.D. it. First of all, Betty Smith’s writing is gorgeous and completely evocative of time and place. Besides that, Francie is a girl after my own heart, working her way alphabetically through her local library, getting so excited about schooling.

If you have reached adulthood without reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, ” please do yourself a favor and read it as soon as possible. I think it might join “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck in the group of books that I reread regularly.

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This review was done with a book I purchased myself.
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27 comments to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Book Review

  • This is one of my favorite books — I haven’t read it in years. Your post reminds me that a reread is in order! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Kay

    Isn’t this a wonderful book? I totally agree with your recommendation for everyone to pick this one up. My book group read it last year and I was amazed at how many of the older women had never read it. We had a lot to discuss even though virtually everyone loved it. Thanks for sharing!

  • I just read this for the first time in the past few months and loved it too!!

  • I tried to read this in school but failed. I was bored with it, and a couple of years ago book club selected it and I again failed to finish it. I was bored to tears.

    I’m glad that it works for you though!

  • I still have this one to read… *hint to myself* .. Glad you liked it!

  • I am so glad you liked this one! I feel like a lot of people find it slow or boring but it really is a great book.

  • What a relief! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is so near and dear to my heart, that it breaks any time I hear of someone not liking it! To have recommended it to you, it would have torn clear in TWO if you hadn’t loved it. I am so glad you did! It’s been fun reading and discussing it with you these last three months… although I wish I had done a better job!

  • I can’t stop laughing over this review. So many people have told me to read this book, and every time I conveniently forget to read it or just flat out ignore the suggestion. I have no idea why I don’t want to read the book. But after this, I may have to.

  • Oh no!!! I have never read this book. I grabbed it off my parents’ shelves a couple of times, but something else always got in the way. Thanks for the reminder that I need to pick it up, and I am glad you liked it. It is the worst when classics disappoint because then I wonder what all the fuss was about-a la Wuthering Heights.

  • Sigh, I’ve never read this one and really wanted to read it along with the Classics book club, but time got away from me! I’ll make sure to read it sometime soon.

  • I read this for the first time just a few years ago and felt the exact same way. It is a beautiful, touching book.

  • I have never read this one. Actually had it in my hands at the recent library sale but it was in pretty sorry condition and, dare I say, a bit dirty. I don’t mind some wear and tear, but I can’t stand to have my hands dirty so I don’t ever pick up books that are dirty. I’ll have to keep watching for it.

  • I loved this book when I first read and when I later reread it. Yes, you are right to encourage everyone to read it.

  • I’m sorry to say I’m one of those adults who has never read this book, and I’m really not sure why.

  • I totally agree! I read this along with the Classic Reads Book Club and I loved it so much I read it all at once, was completely unable to pace it out according to the schedule. I was shocked when I realized how awesome it is, and so sad that it took me 26 years to read it!

  • I’m not fired! I reviewed this one last year and raved about it!! My IRL book club just chose it for their book in July. While I won’t reread it right now I’m excited to find out what they think of it.

  • I felt the same way once I picked up this book. Why did I not read this before? It’s a great coming of age story. It’s interesting to see the other bloggers who haven’t had the chance to read it yet. Looks like we’re not the only late ones reading this one.

  • Phew! This is one of my all-time favorite books, and has only grown more meaningful as I get older. Learning more about Betty Smith’s rich and chaotic life only made my last reread the sweeter…glad you’re an aficionada now, too!

  • This book is the next selection in the Midday Connection Book Club. (http://www.moodyradio.org/brd_ProgramMainPage.aspx?id=7058) I haven’t started it yet, and I wasn’t very excited about it. Your review has peeked my interest. Now I think I might really like it!

  • I read this book when I was twelve, which I think is just about the perfect age for reading it. It became one of my absolute favorite books, and I still treasure my copy.

  • Amy

    I haven’t read this one either but I’ll be adding it to my list.

  • the title sounded boring to me as a kid, and i lived in brooklyn! but I’m glad someone forced me to read it back then and I’m glad I re-read it this year.

  • I remember reading this in high school. It was one of the first books I read as a high schooler and I have to admit that although I appreciated and loved the story, I had a difficult time getting through it. Still, I do appreciate it a lot more in hindsight and reading your review has certainly made me want to pick it up again.

  • I read this for the first time only a few years ago, and I also wondered why it took me so long. I absolutely loved it!

  • I finally read this in the fall and loved it. How did I miss the boat on this one for so many years?

  • Amanda

    Oh yay! This is one of my favorite books so I’m always happy when I see people love this!

  • Somehow I’ve made it to 38 without reading this. Does it count if it’s on my shelf?