How wonderful to discover a highly acclaimed book that perhaps even the avid reader may have overlooked. That was certainly the case for me when I came across a copy of the 1943 American classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, first published in 1942 , written by Betty Smith. This is an ” honest and True” novel about a young and very poor Irish girl and her family living in Brooklyn, New York in the early 1900s. The book is so autobiographical in nature that there was a 1943 lawsuit by an individual claiming to be the prototype for one of the characters! Young Francie Nolan faces all of the challenges that life could muster including poverty, an alcoholic and yet somewhat heroic father, birth and death and an economy that offered little opportunity for an immigrant family, let alone a young girl.
The story is reminiscent of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, but Smith’s portrayal of the fortitude of Francie sets a very high standard for storytelling. Francie’s mother, brother and the other ” Irish family” members are portrayed in wonderful detail and the book is a valuable insight into a period of American city dwelling immigrant history that is important to readers of any age and gender.
I am glad that this wonderful novel did not escape me and I highly recommend it to you and any members of your reading family. Further acclaim for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn came in 1945 when Twentieth Century Fox released the movie, the first film directed by Elia Kazan.