Purchased for September’s The Bookies Book Club.
“Tell the truth and write the story.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This is a coming of age story of a young girl named Francie in the not-so-good section of Brooklyn in the early years of the 20th century. I enjoyed that it starts in 1912 because it is exactly 100 years ago. They say that nothing much happens in the way of plot in this book, but actually a LOT happens! It just doesn’t quite have the “beginning-action-ending” plot arc but a meandering slow-moving reality feel to it. It was a profoundly touching look at a time period and segment of American history.
In the words of Anna Quindlen in the Foreword (which I read after the book, per usual, but is ok to read first, in case you need to know such),
When it first appeared, in 1943, it was called, by those critics who liked it, an honest book, and that is accurate as far as it goes. But it is more than that: It is deeply indelibly true. Honesty is casting bright light on your own experience; truth is casting it on the experiences of all, which is why, six decades after it was published and became an instant bestseller, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn continues to be read by people from all countries and all circumstances. Early on in its explosive success it was described as a book about city life, a a story about grinding poverty, a tale of the struggles of immigrant America. But all those things are setting, really, and the themes are farther-reaching: the fabric of family, the limits of love, the loss of innocence, and the birth of knowledge.
I very much enjoyed this book. I wonder if I would have loved it as much if I had read it much earlier in my life, though. Could it be this book resonates more reading it as adult? Is this considered YA? because it would fit ‘my’ definition of YA: protagonist being ‘young’. Some scenes were just wonderful! The librarian and her attitudes and Francie’s wanting desperately to be recognized for her talents. The descriptions of the educational process were my favorite. I loved Francie’s mother – she was so honestly described. Though the book did not sugar-coat anything, it still portrayed even the dirty ugly side of life has having good and hopeful elements.
I heartily recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I’m thinking of so many people I want to foist this upon! Holly, Miss Madeline, my neighbor and her 12 yo daughter, Elaine…
Considering that this book is FICTION and yet obviously has much in parallel to the author’s life, I thank Ms. Quinlen for explaining. Apparently, an editor suggested it NOT be a memoir but be reconfigured and I think it works very well. It makes one wonder just how much Francie is Betty Smith and vice versa. What a tough and amazing woman she must have been. On this note, it reminds me of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
Also, because it is #ITalong season, I must mention that the day I read about Francie and how much she loved the library was also the day that I listened to the section of King’s IT on how much young Ben Hanscom loved the library. EERILY DELIGHTFUL!!