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Audiobook – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

>> Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1943 (originally), 1989 (this edition)
Read by: Barbara Rosenblat

This is another book from that ‘classics I’ve never read’ list. For some reason I had it in my head that it was more of a kids book than it was adult fiction. Wrong. There are definitely adult themes here even though the main character is a young girl. What made me finally get this book from the library was the fact that it was read by Barbara Rosenblat who is one of my all time favorite audio book readers.

I enjoyed this book much more than I’d expected to. Francie Nolan is 11 years old when the book opens in 1912 Brooklyn. She and her family struggle make ends meet and find happiness despite their poverty. Along with Francie, the reader meets her strong willed mother and kind, but chronically unemployed and drunk father. Francie’s extended family includes her mother’s sisters and parents. Francie is a bright girl who has both her father’s dreaminess and her mother’s practicality and resilience. Through flashbacks the story goes back to when Francie’s parents met and fell in love and continues to when Francie is 17.

This is a wonderful coming of age story set in a time and place that is also coming of age. As Francie grows and loses her childhood innocence, the country also loses its innocence and is drawn into World War I.

I quickly grew to like and root for Francie. After all she’s the same kind of voracious reader I was at that age. Her mother and Aunt Sissy were also mostly likeable. Katie Nolan loves her daughter but is willing to admit to herself that she unfairly favors Francie’s younger brother Cornelius (Neeley). In some ways she knows it is because Francie has the strength that runs in the women of her family and will somehow manage to make it. I was certainly cheering for Francie to do so throughout the book.

I enjoyed this as an audio book and can highly recommend it as read by Barbara Rosenblat.

Rating: 4 stars.


Anna 7/21/2009 9:30 AM  

I read this a couple of years ago and loved it. I wouldn't mind listening to the audio version at some point.

Diary of an Eccentric

Lynne 7/21/2009 9:43 AM  

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Glad you enjoyed it.

Kailana 7/21/2009 10:31 AM  

I really need to reread this one of these days. It was a long time ago that I read it at this point!

The Bumbles 7/21/2009 8:10 PM  

Awww - thanks for the fond memories - I remember reading this as a young girl. I have it on my list of re-reads to get to - nice to know it still gets thumbs up!

SuziQoregon 7/21/2009 8:29 PM  

Anna: There are several audio versions. I just love listening to Barbara Rosenblat so I recommend this one.

Lynne: I remember it being talked about on the booklover's group and that's what made me put it on the TBR list.

Kailana: I'm really kind of surprised I hadn't read it before now. I love this kind of book.

Bumbles: Yay - glad it sparked some fond memories. Hope you love it as much when you re-read.

alisonwonderland 7/23/2009 10:43 PM  

This was on my 'classics I've never read' list until about two years ago when I finally read it. I wondered why it took me so long. I really loved it!

SuziQoregon 7/24/2009 1:54 PM  

Alison: glad to know I'm not the only one who took a long time to find this gem. I just enjoyed it so much.

Scrappy Kay 7/25/2009 4:07 AM  

Suzi, I read "Tree" as a teen-ager, and then again just a couple of years ago. It definitely resonated more with me as an adult . . .

And as for audio books, I am also a fan of Barbara Rosenblat. I could listen to almost any kind of book if she was reading it!

dolcebellezza 7/26/2009 10:25 AM  

I love this book! I've read it several times, and it never dimishes with each reread. I won't forget Francie and her brother having the Christmas trees thrown at them so that they could have one to take home. Or, her father putting acid on her leg wound. Or, her mother buying them ice cream so unexpectedly. It's a lovely book despite it's woes.

Rebecca :) 7/26/2009 7:43 PM  

I thought this was more of a children's book, too. I have been wanting to read it myself. I will look to see if they have the audiobook at my library.

SuziQoregon 7/28/2009 1:30 PM  

Kay: I think I could listen to Barbara Rosenblat read the dictionary. She does great with the voices in this one.

Bellezza: there are so many memorable scenes. I really loved Aunt Sissy - she didn't always do the right thing, but her heart was always in the right place.

Rebecca: I'm not sure why I thought this was a kids book. It's a pretty up front story of living in a poor neighborhood in pre WW1 NY. I definitely suggest the audio read by Barbara Rosenblat.

Bonnie 8/01/2009 5:41 PM  

This is one of my all time favorite books and I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I read it in a high school English class and fell in love with Francie. I've since re-read the book several times. There is a movie version based on the book that is an old B&W movie that I saw many years ago. I don't recall how close it stayed with the book.

SuziQoregon 8/02/2009 6:50 AM  

Bonnie: I remember that among the old Booklovers group there were lots of folks who loved this one. That's what made me put it on my TBR list to begin with. I'll have to see if my library has the movie.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

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