A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Philadelphia : The Blakiston Company, 1943. Book club edition. Hardcover. 376 pages ; 21 cm. Very good copy with original dust jacket, unmarked pages and square binding.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By BETTY SMITH
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan and the world of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that made her. It is a story of tears and laughter, cruelty and compassion, so crowded with life and people and incident that no description can begin to convey its spell.
From the moment she entered the world Francie needed to know toughness, for life in Williamsburg, was lived without kid gloves. You faced up to it or you went down—and Katie Nolan's children were not the kind to go down. It was no matter if the neighbors scorned the Nolans because of Johnny's liking for the bottle, and because Aunt Sissy had a habit of marrying many times without the formality of divorce. Aunt ' Sissy was bad, but she was good too. She was good because wherever she was there was life; fine, tender, overwhelming, fun-loving and strong-scented life. And in a different way Johnny had something of the same quality.
Whatever might be said of life in the Nolan family, no one could complain that it lacked drama. With junk day coming every Saturday, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, with the Fourth of July, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving and Christmas bringing their special excitements once a year, with all the world that wasn't Williamsburg lying just across the bridge in Manhattan—each day was filled to bursting.
That Betty Smith has caught his sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood incredibly rich in the elements of universal experience is a remarkable achievement for any writer. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will be remembered because within the compass of its characters is all of humanity; the good, the bad, the pitiful and the ridiculous and those with, Stardust in their eyes.
Betty Smith was born in Brooklyn in 1906. She was married at an early age. When her two children were old enough to enter grade school. Miss Smith registered at the University of Michigan as a special student, completed her four years and then stayed on to do graduate work. She then spent three years in New Haven studying at the Yale Drama School. She took courses in playwrighting under George P. Baker and Walter P. Eaton, wrote articles for the N.E.A. syndicate and was a feature writer on the Detroit Free Press. For some time she worked as a play reader for the Federal Theatre Project and for the Dramatists Play Service of New York. She judged state drama tournaments and acted herself in summer stock and in the road production of Post Road. When the Post Road company was disbanded in North Carolina she was persuaded to make her home in Chapel Hill. She has remained here for six years connected with the Carolina Play-makers. Besides the Avery Hopwood Award for "excellence in fiction and dramatic writing" which she won in college, she has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship in drama and a Dramatists' Guild-Rockefeller Fellowship in playwriting.
Although Miss Smith has some 60 published one-act plays and six full-length dramas to her credit, this.is her first novel. She says of it, "Brooklyn is not a city. It is a faith. You cannot become a Brooklyn-ite. You have to be born one. I was born in Brooklyn. For a long time, I wanted to write about it the way I knew it. One day I bought a ream of paper and started to write."
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