Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer.
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
It seems a while since I updated my blog but I've been engrossed in a book! I have a weakness for coming-of-age novels and vintage American literature so Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a perfect read for me.
Eleven-year old Francie is growing up poverty-stricken in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, New York in 1912. Francie is a bookish child who likes to sit on the fire escape in her tenement flat hidden in the branches of the tree that grows underneath it, reading and listening to the comings and goings of the lively neighbourhood. On a Saturday she visits the library where she is working her way through every single book and has so far only reached authors whose name begins with B. Her mother and aunties are delicate-looking but extremely tough women who have to stretch a tiny family budget. Her father is a lovable and handsome loser who works when he can. Francie and her brother are always hungry. The rhythms and speech patterns of the working class Williamsburg community are brilliantly captured by Betty Smith.
I'll post my final thoughts on this novel when I've finished it but I'd like to read more novels set in early 20th century New York. I'm thinking Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence and Willa Cather's My Mortal Enemy. I was also intrigued by Book Snob's review of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. As always, I would welcome any other suggestions.