A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the coming-of-age story of young, sensitive and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the turn-of-the centuryWilliamsburgslums ofBrooklyn. This poignant and moving tale is filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident.

 

From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life ofWilliamsburgdemanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly rich moments of universal experiences.

Classics do not always make a successful transition to today’s modern readers, and this American classic struggled against our book club’s expectations considerably.  Cheryl found it flat and boring, leaving it to read something a little more enthralling, and there was a general consensus that this was not a gripping tale but merely a biographical telling of the times. In fact Jean likened it to diary entries, much like those in The Diary of Anne Frank.

 There were some positive opinions though. Sandra found it enjoyable once she committed to the read and thought the insight into the life and times ofBrooklynslums interesting. She also commented on the empathy that came through from the author and most of us agreed that Smith did a good job in portraying the world of her upbringing.Marysuggested this book reminder her of a modern day Dickens … lots of reading to get anywhere. There were some head nods at this.

 We enjoyed a great discussion about our childhoods and how things have changed, and we could understand how this book would be a good record of life in the early 1900s. Dissecting characters is always interesting with a book club and we found plenty of material with A Tree Grows. The family dynamics were strong but realistic and we could find little fault in that department.

 Lastly we spoke of the movie, which some of us could remember being a real tear-jerker but not quite as realistic as the book. More of a sentimentalHollywoodrendition. No surprises there!

 We did admit it was easy to read, so if you’re wanting to up your classics list without the struggle, this one should do it for you.

 

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