A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Quite possibly one of the greatest books of all time, and certainly one of the best books I’ve ever read, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a moving, sharp, touching and confronting story about a family in 1900s Brooklyn who grow and change, fail and triumph while a tree grows outside their apartment building despite the odds that say it would never survive. I thoroughly recommend reading this!

Firstly, what I found interesting about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was the parallels between the novel’s narrator, Francie Nolan, and the author Betty Smith. It feels like a fictionalised autobiography, which just made the novel feel so much warmer and closer to humanity.

Francie is 12 when the novel begins, and narrates the life and times of her family, The Nolans. They are dirt poor, making something like 12 cents a week and living pay check to pay check. However, they are a happy family – Francie goes to a school she loves and aspires to be a writer, her mother trades cleaning work for accommodation in the apartment building, her father is a singer who struggles with alcoholism and her brother Neeley is, well, a boy, but one who grows into a charming young man.

There are aunts and uncles, friends, fallen women, good times and bad times. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn doesn’t have a set plot line, it’s just the unfolding of a lifetime, a family and a community.

Francie grows up, and while she has dreams of graduating and going to university, she shelves these in order to support her family. She steadily rises through the ranks as a reader at a newspaper office and is soon bringing home $20 a week – more than enough to finally pull her family out of poverty and put herself through college and finally university! Francie is an amazing character and a great role model for younger readers – she is determined and strong and achieves her dreams through hard work. I came to adore Francie and her family and found myself almost in tears over their rollercoaster life.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic American novel and one that you
should read at least once in your lifetime.



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