Howdy Reading Buddies! How did you like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith? I must admit, I’ve only been reading it at bedtime and am still 50 pages from the end. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish tonight. Feel free to discuss the end, though, if you’d like!
Overall, I’ve enjoyed this reread. As I mentioned in our discussion, I hardly remembered anything from my first time through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as a young teen, but the general sense I got from the book both times felt the same. I mentioned in my earlier post that at the novel’s start, instead of being closer to Francie’s age I was now closer to Katie’s. It’s funny, but as Francie started to grow up, went out into the so-called real world and started to act less like a kid, I found myself again identifying with her more than with Katie, despite our age gap.
I think one of my favorite parts about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is how well Smith captured the relationships between the Nolan parents and their children. I think it’s very perceptive of Francie to have figured out that she and Katie are too similar, that Katie loves Neeley differently and perhaps more, for example. These dynamics, along with the inner monologues Smith occasionally provided for her characters (Katie in at the ice cream shop graduation party comes to mind), gave a depth to the Nolans and did much to really bring them to life.
I also enjoyed the series of vignettes that makes up the novel. Instead of following a smooth, linear path, reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is like dropping in on a succession of short scenes separated by temporal jumps of varying lengths. Despite all the hopping, though, I didn’t feel like the narrative was choppy — a feat I found impressive on the part of the author.
I can see why some feel Smith can get a little preachy. In this particular novel, that style didn’t get to me, as it seemed somehow to meld with the characters and their situations. But, I can imagine where it could get out of hand in a different narrative setting. I have Joy in the Morning on my shelf and plan to give it a try at some point.
What were your thoughts on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Do tell! If you posted about the book on your own blog, please leave a link in the comments so I can check it out. Oh — and be sure to vote for May’s book if you haven’t done so! It’s our closest poll to date!