A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith


14891The 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.


Oh man, I loved this book. It is quiet and wonderful, following the life of Francie, a poor girl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her story is both individual and universal, as all good stories should be.

I only knew the bare facts of pre-WWI New York (Tammany Hall, tenements) so it was interesting to see how normal families were affected. A big theme throughout the whole story is the battle between the dependable and the passionate. Is it better to marry a solid man or a passionate one? Is it better to be rich or happy, if one has to choose? Katie and Neeley have made their choices, and by the end of the novel Francie is considering hers.

This is a book I can see myself coming back to in five or ten years’ time to see what else Francie and her family can teach me. Highly recommended.