Ahoy there me mateys! While drawin’ up me lists of 2016 for me log, I realized a curious thing – out of 134 books read, not a single one was a re-read. In me enthusiasm of discovery and taking suggestions from me crew, I did not revisit a single old port for plunder! And part of what I love about readin’ is re-visitin’ old friends. So I decided to remedy that and thus created me new category where I take a second look at a previously enjoyed novel and give me crew me second reflections, as it were, upon visitin’ it again . . .
a tree grows in brooklyn (Betty Smith)
I have been meaning to reread this book for ages. It was one of me favourites as a young girl and I avidly read it over and over again. So when I heard that the the September BookBum Club Challenge’s theme be “back to school – reread a “required reading” book you read in school / read a book that’s on school curriculums / reread a book you read while attending school,” I thought the timing was perfect.
And bless me salty heart, this book was as poignant and amazing as I remembered. Part of the fun of the reread was that when I first started reading this book I was younger than the main character, Francie, is at the beginning of the story. I am now older than Francie is at the end of the book. Me perspective of course has shifted quite a bit as I have aged. So it was a delightful blend of new perspectives and old nostalgia.
What hadn’t changed was the awe and love I felt as I was reading. This book is at once an fascinating coming of age story and also a snapshot of life at a specific time in a specific Williamsburg neighborhood in the early 1900s. The story just feels so very real. The people feel real. And yet there is a timelessness to it that makes it feel as relevant today as when I first read it.
And Francie! Ah how much I related to her as a child. Her thoughts about books, her lack of childhood friendships, having an alcoholic father, her big dreams, her family’s poverty, her issues in school, and her daydreams about people and places. I loved her then and wished she could have been me friend every time I read this book. I loved her just as much now. She holds a place in me heart in much the same way as Scout does from to kill a mockingbird.
And like the mockingbird symbolism, I also loved readin’ again about that special tree by the fire escape in Brooklyn where Francie hides, dreams, reads, and watches the neighborhood. It is a perfect symbol for that neighborhood and the people living there. I loved that Francie could see the beauty in ordinary things and triumph in small pleasures. And that tree was one of them.
Overall this book made have tears of sorrow as well as aches of joy. The current time and place disappeared and I was completely captivated by the world of Betty Smith. Me silly, paltry words do this book no justice. But I will not be waiting as long to read this again. Plus Kate Burton did a fantastic job with the narration of this audiobook.
Much thanks to the BookBum Club for giving me the incentive to reread this “back to school” novel.
Side note: I had no idea that this book has been turned into a movie and a musical! I like what’s in me noggin and so will not be watching either of them. Arrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.
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