I just finished the great American classic, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," last night. It's a book I have always wanted to read - I have looked at it many times when shopping at B&N, but always put it back on the shelf. Truth be told, I like my reading a little on the light side - I get enough technical, intense reading in grad school, so tend to stick with easier reads to offset the heavy reading I do for school. It's summer, though, and I am not taking classes, so I decided to dive into this book, and am so glad I did. I guess when I hear "American classic" I assume that the language will be a bit cumbersome and it will take some effort on my part to get into the book; this was not the case with this book at all! It was nearly 500 pages long, but I read it pretty quickly. Would have read it even quicker had I not picked up a knitting addiction in the last couple of weeks!!
The book is written by Betty Smith in 1943. It is about the coming-of-age of the central character of the book, Francie Nolan. There is a great foreward by Anna Quindlen that talks about the history of the book. Originally, Betty Smith wrote this as an autobiography but the publisher asked that she transform her personal story into a novel. As a result, much of the book reads like an autobiography. There is no central plot to this story or 'pivotal' event per se; the book just basically follows the life of Francie from birth to the age of 18. It might seem like a book with no major event would be a bit boring, but this book is far from that. Francie's family lives in such a state of poverty and experiences many hardships through her life, so it is very easy to stay interested in the meandering story.
Even though Francie grew up in a different time and under completely different living conditions, it's easy for me to relate to her; Anna Quindlen actually comments in her foreword on the ease with which the reader can relate to Francie. I used one of my favorite quotes for the title of this blog entry. Towards the beginning of the book, Francie talks about going to the library to check out books and comments that "The world was hers for the reading."
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars (I'm pretty stingy on giving out 5 stars... just an FYI)