I don't have words enough to praise this gem of a novel by Betty Smith. The coming-of-age story of the protagonist, Francie Nolan, has been beloved for decades and deservedly so. The author paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the colorful Nolan family and their story of struggles and simple joys.
I felt sad when this book ended!
This audiobook is expertly read by the actress Kate Burton (her accent is perfect, and I say that as a Brooklynite)!
Download this one - you won't be disappointed!
Although this book was written and published in the late 1940's, it's story of life in Brooklyn, circa 1912 - 1918, is timeless and very moving. Wonderful narration makes the characters come alive. So glad I read this classic !
I am retired and I love having more time for audio books. I also enjoy hiking, birding, gardening, and genealogy.
I was fully prepared to love this book, as I have recently begun doing my own family tree that is very much Brooklyn-oriented and many of my relatives lived during the time period that this book describes. I had a difficult time adjusting to the narrator and was not fond of her accents at first. In addition, she spoke extremely fast in the first parts of the book--I even contemplated ways of slowing the narration down. Either Kate Burton eventually slowed down as she got into to the story, or I just became accustomed to her speed.
I found the story a bit slow moving, and I felt the author spent a bit too much time on Francie's earliest years. In the second part of the audiobook, I got much more involved in the story and actually looked forward to resuming it. At the point that I was really enjoying this story, the book seemed to abruptly end.
Overall, it was a worthy read for me, but for me, it did not live up to the unanimous rave reviews it has gotten.
I'm surprised by the reviews. Perhaps it's because I have already read this book in paperback. It's one of my favorite classics. Twenty years ago, I gave this book a five star rating. Having just listened to it with refreshed ears and a clear mind, I did pick up on a number of writing flaws, which I'm willing to forgive with just a one-star penalty.
First, let me critique the production of this audio. It was pretty bad. Although Kate Burton can read aloud just fine, without snacking her lips, swallowing loudly, or failing to block out background noise, she did fail to "perform." Contrary to what some reviewers are saying, her idea of a Brooklyn accent is not only embarrassing, but it's downright insulting to Brooklynites. She made everyone sound like the Three Stooges. It would be comical if it wasn't so annoying. There were also many parts of the book where the character was singing. Instead of singing the lyrics, she read them. Really, if you are going to "perform" a narration, at least try to sing when the characters sing. Reading Silent Night and Auld Lang Syne in a monotone, non-inflected voice ruins the experience.
The narrator was not the only problem. This is why I am critiquing the production, not just the narrator. The worst part of the production was this crazy jazz music that suddenly blares at you in the middle of a section. The loud music is followed by an agonizingly long pause and then a score of Schroder piano music. Horribly distracting. I wanted to throw my MP3 player across the room. The long silent pause between bursts of music was a waste of time. To be honest, I absolutely hate when there's music in my Audibles. Don't inflict your music on me. I have my own reading mood. I don't want to start out each chapter annoyed. (Besides, reading is a quiet, peaceful activity. Why would you blare music at someone?)
As for the writing flaws, nothing I say here is going to make a difference, nor should it discourage anyone from purchasing the book. I'm merely noting it in case someone is thinking of writing a similar memoir, to prevent what is considered poor writing in modern standards. The book was poorly organized. Smith kept shifting up and down her timeline to the point that it was difficult to tell what order events occurred. Points of view also kept shifting. The story began in Francie's POV and then suddenly there's a long narrative of Katie, a bit of Johnny, a quick thought from Nealy, and the complete biography of Sissy. There was even one scene where we got a glimpse inside the heads of all the neighbors. Too much. Give us one or two POVs so we can keep up.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is still one of my favorites. It's a beautifully honest depiction of a time gone by and should be a part of every book lover's library. I would suggest you read the book first, and if you still want the audio, try the other narrator.
It's probably not possible for any version of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" to be bad, but listening to it, instead of reading it, brought new insights. Special kudos to the narrator -- because of her narration, I saw things in the book I'd never thought of when just reading it.
And read it, I have, maybe five or six times. Some of my favorites scenes in all literature are here -- especially the one where Francie, every morning, pours her precious coffee down the drain. Although it's the most expensive treat she'll have all day, she pours it out -- because having the ability to waste something makes her feel, for just a moment, like she's rich. (Lots to think about, there.)
But in reading the book, for me -- a Californian -- what I hadn't really considered was what a Brooklynite Francie was, as was Katie, her mother. Sounds totally stupid, I know, but in reading it, I never imagined the accents. If anything, I'd have imagined an Irish accent, I guess, not pure Brooklynese. It gave a whole new dimension to the story. Katie was sometimes harsh, especially to Francie -- but hearing it with the accent make it more poignant yet.
So given this special insight that the narrator brought, why did I give the narrator only four stars? One reason: from time to time there's a song involved in the story -- sometimes Johnny sings, sometimes other members of the family. But every time one of the songs came up, the narrator turned into a minor Maria Callas, rendering the song as though it were pure opera. For someone who managed the down-home Brooklyn speaking accents so well, why would she think that when they sang, they'd sound like opera stars? The worst was a scene where Johnny was coming home from a bar, drunk, late at night, and was singing "Molly Malone" -- would he really do it in an accent-free king's english, vibratto and all? I don't think so.
Wonderful that the narrator is also a trained singer. Best wishes for her success in that field. But when a narrator is reading a story about poor, struggling, uneducated, Irish immigrants, it would be smarter to keep their singing in the same voice as that with which they spoke. To do otherwise was jarring -- it reminded me I was listening to an audiobook, not present myself at the scene, which was how I felt for most of the rest of the book.
In spite of that, this is a great audiobook. Not to be missed.
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Dad to his 13-year-old daughter.
I think I probably would have given this book five stars if I were a chick. It was an enjoyable listen with characters that came to life with the good narration. If I had one criticism is that it leaves you hanging as Francie heads off to college. I almost wanted the story to be a retrospective with Francie opening up her time capsule 50 years later and giving a brief synopsis of what had happened with the rest of her life. Great characters, great dialogue and a totally believable storyline. Highly recommended.
This is a wonderfully told story of a time and place far gone but it still touched me as if I had been there and walked the streets of 1915 Brooklyn right alongside Francie Nolan.
So happy to have read this book! I had heard of it, of course, but didn't know anything about it. I started it with absolutely no idea of what it was about. I was completely sucked in to this little girl's life and felt like I was a fly on the wall. I didn't want it to end but all books have to I suppose. I will definitely recommend it to everyone! The reader had a wonderful calm, yet expressive, voice that was easy to listen to and follow the characters.
Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
Yes, this was a great audio for children and adults. I was especially glad my 12 year old and I listened together. I have never seen him so often pause an audio to discuss various aspects -- the clothes, the ethnic stereotypes, what various words meant, etc. Those discussions were probably as educational as anything. He's reading this book for school, but I know listening to the audio while he has the book in front of him has made it into a pleasure for him.
Probably Francie, but Kate Burton is a wonderful all--around narrator.
I think it is too intense and long, but certainly it is compelling to listen as long as you can. We're actually on our second listen, which is unusual to imagine for such a long book.
Ordinarily I like some music as a part of an audio, but somehow the music played between chapters here is a little jarring. My son calls it Random Music Moment.