Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

After reading my blog, a friend asked me a couple days ago what I thought of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  And that reminded me I never wrote a blog post about it after book club last week.

I'm not sure if most of the population (or at least the population of my blog readers) has read this classic.  I, for one, had not when it was suggested as a book club read.  Actually, only one person in our club had read it when she was in high school.

But I walk away from the reading experience wondering why on Earth this never came up in any of my English classes (I was an English major in college for goodness sakes!).  Because the book was wonderful!

In terms of plot, not much happens.  Literally.  The 500 pages follow the Nolans - a low-income family in Brooklyn at the beginning of the 20th century.  But it mainly centers around Francie, their oldest daughter, and follows her life from birth until late teens.  It's a classic coming-of-age story.

What I loved was the coming-of-age of a girl.  It seems like a lot of the classics accomplish the same thing, but do so from a male perspective.  I also loved the details of Brooklyn in the early 1900s.  Everything about the Nolans' life was so different from my own, but it didn't feel foreign, instead if felt like an experience my own ancestors could've gone through 100 years ago.  The world was such a different place back then, and it was fascinating to jump into it.

Even though I said not much happens in the plot, I flew through the book.  It reads really quick.  It's almost because Francie becomes like a friend, in a way.  Even though you know tomorrow she'll probably just do her normal routine, you want to be there with her when she does it.  It's written such that when Francie experiences emotion, you do too.  Sadness, happiness, loneliness, love, heartbreak - you're right there with her, cheering her on and feeling cheated when something doesn't go her way.

I recommend checking this book out if you haven't already encountered it in your schooling or elsewhere.  It's good to read a classic every now and then, and this would be a lovely one to add to your list.  (And just to make it really legit - everyone in my book club enjoyed it as much as I did.  We pretty much gushed over it for two hours last week.)

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