Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I love this book so much I hardly know how to express my thoughts about it. I am reading it for the first time just now and it's like I've discovered reading for the first time. It speaks to my twelve-year-old self and it speaks to my adult self and, really, it speaks to every level of life in between. How can a book do that? How can a person love paper and ink and words all bound together? It's magical, truly.

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. (goodreads)

Papa came home at five o'clock. By that time, the horse and wagon had been locked up in Fraber's stable, Francie had finished her book and her candy and had noted how pale and thin the late afternoon sun was on the worn fence boards. She held the sun-warmed, window-freshened pillow to her cheek a moment before she replaced it on her cot. Papa came singing his favorite ballad, 'Molly Malone'. He always sang it coming up the stairs so that everyone would know he was home. pg 26

Katie told Sissy of the talk she had had with their mother that day. The idea of the bank so fascinated Sissy, that she got up - even though it was the middle of the night, emptied out a can of milk into a bowl and made the bank then and there. She tried to crawl into the narrow closet to nail it down bit her voluminous nightgown got her tangled up. She pulled it off and crawled naked into the closet. The large luminous naked back end of her stuck out as she crouched on her knees hammering the bank to the floor. Katie had such a fit of giggling that she was afraid she'd bring on a hemorrhage. The loud banging at three o'clock in the morning woke the other tenants. They pounded on the ceiling from below and on the floor from above. Sissy threw Katie into another spasm of giggles by mumbling from the closet that the tenants had some nerve raising such a racket when there was a sick woman in the house. "How can anybody sleep?" she asked, giving the last nail a terrific bang. pg79


7 comments:

Laura said...

YES! I read this book for the first time this year too, and I was just like 'Wow, did Betty Smith get inside my extremely bookish 12 year old brain?!' Oh man, it's so wonderful!

Beth said...

I loved that book way back when! And still have my old copy. Perhaps I should read it again? Do I have time? So many books...

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've read that book twice. Once in high school and then again a few years ago.

Trish said...

All I knew about this book was that it was generally read by girls in their early teens and that it was, at one time, banned. I don't know why I never gave it much thought in my youth. I probably just wrote it off as too chick-lit and left it at that. So now, decades after my teens, I decided it was time to reconsider reading it. What struck me from the very beginning was how accurately the author portrays Francie's little-girl self, her thoughts, actions, and impressions. Yes! I kept thinking, Yes! That's exactly right! And then as the story progressed it dealt with some very adult issues: poverty, alcoholism, sex (aahh therein lies the ban) that would have perhaps been somewhat over my head at fourteen but a perfect opportunity for discussion. And now reading this book as an adult I can more readily see and appreciate these subjects for the life-lessons they provide. It's a good -nay, important- book to read as a teen and again as an adult. The back cover blurb talks about it 'capturing a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.' Exactly. If nothing else, it's a very human story

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

It's such a great feeling when you connect with a book like that and it reignites your love of reading. I haven't read this book yet, but I'm glad you loved it so much :)

Trish said...

It's a must-read, Sam. Even if you only get to it years from now, it will still be fantastic.

rachelkiwi said...

i just read this for the first time this year also. so many beautiful words. i love when she describes going into the library...the smells, the feelings, and that she feels the way about it that she feels about going into church.

i loved it! loved it. i know exactly what you mean. it's a book for book lovers, thats for sure.