Book Review / A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

My Rating: 4 of 5

Page Count: 493

Date Finished: September 1, 2017


So I heard people like this book. Now that I have read it I understand why. There’s so much to like about it. Francie Nolan has to be one of the most likable characters there is or ever will be. The story begins during the early years of Francie’s life, then jumps back to before she was born, illustrating her family’s past, habits, and beliefs before putting the spotlight back on Francie.

Francie is an impoverished girl of Brooklyn with not many friends so she turns to books as her outlet, aspiring to be a writer and getting little help from her teachers. The book is essentially plotless. It’s more of a descriptive account a family’s struggle for happiness in the years leading up to the First World War. But happiness is not a thing that can be measured by fortune and status which A Tree Grows in Brooklyn epitomizes. Though the Nolan’s struggle for steady income, have little to eat, and seemingly have all odds against them, they remain a happy family because of the bond between them.

The novel is very descriptive, particularly in the first half. Although the book is easy reading, there is a point where Betty Smith is describing each and every family member and telling each back story which became a bit tedious. It did help later on with the depth of the different family members but I felt it could have been approached differently. The style of writing was a bit of an adjustment here because it felt like a rundown of the characters rather than a description within the context of the story. It also surprised me by being written in the third person. For some reason, I expected a first person narrative. I had no problem with this once I got into the book but it’s worth mentioning. The first half is more descriptive than eventful, but the second half picks up the pace dramatically.

The book really takes the reader into the time period. It has stood the test of time and is beloved for a reason. Even if you are a 26-year-old male like myself you can still enjoy the story and connect with it. The relationship between Francie and her little brother was heartfelt and reminded me of my own relationship with my older sister. I don’t think there’s anything here that is groundbreaking, but the book is an enjoyable experience that will make a mark on your emotions. I look forward to watching the film to see how it compares.



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