A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A friend of the family send this book to us for Scout to read, adding that it was her very favorite book. This is no small praise coming from a person as well-read as she.
It sat on our counter for several months before I took pity on the poor book and decided to give it a try. I knew nothing about the novel, which I think is really the best way to read something.
It is a tremendous book that, had it been described to me, I would never have sought out on my own. In short, it is a coming-of-age novel of a young impoverished girl in Brooklyn in the 1910’s. Sounds depressing, right? I’m not too in to depressing books. I’m looking for escapism; if I want to be sad, I can pick up a newspaper.
But the world our heroine inhabits is fascinating and foreign. It’s I-had-to-walk-uphill-through-the-snow-both-ways but told deftly and with humor and insight.
The writing is well done, and I’ll highlight something that should have bothered me, but didn’t– when a character’s thought processes were being described, they were written in a very matter of fact and stilted way that just… worked, for some reason. I don’t know why, and I never would have tried it myself.
When I was done with the book, I wondered how accurate it could possibly be– where did the author get this incredible detail of Brooklyn life of this time? Even my grandmothers wouldn’t have been old enough to experience it firsthand.
But of course, the answer is that this book is fairly old, written in 1943. I would have known that had I bothered to pay any attention to the cover, with the words “75th Anniversary Edition” printed across the top.
So, in summary, it’s nice the human race writes things down so we can learn about them 100 years later.