(Assuming you've read the publisher's summary) It's hard to review a book as good as TREE, I'm going to keep it short. The era, early 1900s in Brooklyn is lovingly and smartly rendered. I'm thinking that Frank McCourt was a Betty Smith fan, as there are many reminiscent moments from his book ANGELA'S ASHES. However, Smith is a bit more gentle as she leads you through the poor Irish tenements. The writing is very straightforward, as are the characters and place. With that, it's not a simplistic novel in any way. Another reviewer said that any well read person shouldn't miss this one, and I completely agree. Terrific narration as well.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Francie Nolan is coming of age at the turn of the century in the slums of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It's a story of perseverance, heartbreak, cruelty, and optimism. Am just reading this as an adult and can't believe it wasn't required in my high school. Fantastically written account of a family struggling to beat the odds for a better life. If you've ever read, "Angela's Ashes" then this is a tamer U.S. version beautifully capturing the struggle for the American dream.
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Mom to his 10-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.
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.
This book rates in the top 10.
Francie Nolan is my favorite character, although I loved her aunt cici and her mother as well. All the characters were so richly written and so intertwined that it's hard not to love them all.
Not sure, but I thought she did a wonderful job with 'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn'.
I couldn't stop listening to it. It's such a wonderful story.
This is an American classic worth listening to. So happy I downloaded it.
Freelance journalist, now living in Israel. Audible books listener for 30 years, when I had to pretend to be blind to get access.
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.
I love books.
I first read this when I was twelve, and I thought it was wonderful. I recently re-read it, and I can easily remember the beauty I saw in it when I was a young girl. It is stories like this that are timeless and touch the hearts of all people. In this book, I saw God.
Living in Brooklyn 90 years after this book was written, gave me great insight into the difficulties faced by those who have gone before. The struggles and lifestyle of this family are so understandable. The tenacity displayed and the warm depth of characters in this book make it a great way to understand why the neighbourhood is the way it is now - the villages that have all joined, the community feel of living in Brooklyn (as apposed to living in Manhattan) now makes much more sense. A wonderfully easy way to learn from history - highly recommended!
Love to listen and walk or run and knit, knit knit
Truly loved this book!.
The narrator was spot on and I could picture the little girl growing up before my eyes. I can see why this book was required reading for high school students.