‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ was written by Betty Smith, published in 1943 , made into a film in 1945 and is a book that you have to read. This is a point that I will continually stress. You may have heard of it, you may have not but it is of my opinion that it is one of the best ‘great American novels’ in a long list of great American novels.
The book follows the story of the Nolan family, who are a poor immigrant family from both Ireland and Austria persevering in the harsh, antagonistic reality of poverty in urban Brooklyn who survive through their tenacity and trust in the possibility of success in a new country that promises freedom.
Johnny Nolan, the patriach of the household is a charismatic singer and waiter who is loved by everybody. He is an adoring husband, and father that is young and reckless, but is also helpless and dependant and resorts to alcoholism as he struggles to be the father that he knows he is unable to be.
In contrast to Johnny, Katie Nolan, the mother is realistic, hardworking and practical. She supports the family, emotionally and financially, and brings up her children in extreme poverty whilst ensuring that they have a educated and adversely happy upbringing. Although she favours her son, Neeley, she does not show it, as he grows to have mirror his father, but vow never to drink.
Which brings me on to the protagonist of the story. Francie Nolan. Francie embodies all the Nolans; she takes the good out of everything, and from all the characters, including her aunts and grandmother, develops through the story un-phased by complete, soul crushing tragedy.
And that is the beauty of this book. Every miserable restriction, every unfair liberty struck at the Nolan’s expense you feel, but with Francie’s unshakable sunny disposition and resolve. It rains, and it thunders, but you laugh. The book validates presumptions of ethical standards with noble acts made acceptable because of their extreme situation, and despite all odds, the family thrives. It’s the perfect most beautifully written sentiment of when live gives you lemons…
So that’s the book. In all sincerity, If i thought it would help, I would transcribe it here in it’s entirety if i thought it would be read but i know how fickle the internet is. Please buy it from a book store, order it online or if you are technologically savvy download it to your Kindle but read it. In fact, if you are strapped for cash, you can borrow my copy.
It’s fantastic. Read it. Okay, i’m done.