Monday, May 12, 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Finding and reading this wonderful old classic was pure joy. I'd seen the movie many years ago, but not read the book.

First published over 50 years ago, Betty Smith's poignant, honest novel created a big stir ... her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society.

Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. The opening line is this: “Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York”. Can you imagine that? Well, I guess the world was much different in the summer of 1912.

It's a simple story of a family in crisis. Johnny, the father, drinks too much and can't hold a job but is the light and life of the family. Katie, the mother, loves her family ferociously, but has been embittered by the strain that Johnny and their perpetual state of poverty places upon her. The story truly belongs to Francie and Neely, the two children, who survive by staying together, inventing stories and games for each other, and finding joy in their meager surroundings.

There is magic and heartbreak, heroics and cowardice, beauty and hideousness. It describes what it was like to be a poor child in Brooklyn in 1908.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog from another bookish blog - it is wonderful! The illustrations that accompany your posts are marvelous ... how much time do you spend creating each one?

Janice said...

Dawn @ sheistoofondofbooks

thanks for your comments ... time spent on each varies widely, from a couple hours to a couple days up to a couple months. I get stalled in the middle of working on one, going on to other things, and then come back later. The Tree in Brooklyn is an example. I'm currently working/not working on another two monther ... have to finish soon though because the book is due back at the library and I've run out of renewals

have you read Smoking Poppy?

Nan said...

Beautiful post and drawing. I'm awed by your talent.

Little Lotte said...

hello, I cam across your blog in the bookaholics blogring, and I had to say I love the way you blog with these lovely bookish drawings. :) I came across this book a few years ago, and I was so touched by the story, I became hooked on Betty Smith!

Kelly said...

I was going to post the same kind of message as sheistoofondofbooks but they beat me too it! I love the illustrations, such a beautiful way of expressing your thoughts!