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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Review: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Focussing primarily on the Nolan family, particularly Francie, and their lives in Brooklyn in the early nineteenth century, this book is a touching and hopeful tale about how ordinary lives are still significant and leave their marks.

The Nolans are as poor as can be. Katie, the mother, is the breadwinner, determined and proud. Johnny, the father, is an alcoholic, generally hopeless but loves and adores his family. Neeley is the pride and joy of the family but it is through Francie, the eldest daughter, that we see life happening.

On the face of it, there is no real story in a plot sense, but the portrayals of lives so different from our own makes you keep reading. The grim determination of Katie to keep the family's heads above water; Francie walking twenty four blocks to and from school; Johnny's hopeless romanticism about life, and more. Though their struggles are far different, we can sympathise. Things such as the alcoholism and poverty are neither romanticised nor lamented; they just are. You can root for the characters without pitying them. Following Francie as she grows up resonates with your own childhood memories. It's almost as if Smith wrote a memoir than a novel, 

I think think this is a very lovely read, definitely one for long summer afternoons sat out in the garden with a cool drink.

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