My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For a book 73 years of age, this was a fantastic read. This book centres on Francie, a young child who is the eldest of two children born at the turn of the century in Brooklyn, New York to a hard working mother and a drunkard father. This is not a plot driven novel, although it covers the span of twenty years. It is the slow steady character development that shows life for Francie as she grows up in relentless poverty.
The main characters are Francie and Neeley, her brother, Katie, Francie’s self sacrificing mother and Johnny Nolan, the irrepressible wonderfully entertaining father. Katie is a wonderful woman struggling to make a better life for her children. She is strong and determined but also humanly flawed in that she loves her son more than her daughter. Johnny on the other hand, adores his daughter and would do anything he could to make her dreams come true, but is a slave to his never ending urge to drink.
I cant tell you a simple plot with which to whet your appetite to read this book. Its a thousand little stories that look at poverty, the desperation of immigrant families trying to absorb a new culture whilst hanging onto their own. It looks at the role of women and gives you a birds eye view into life before women had rights and only responsibilities. It is a book that opens like a sweet flower and perfumes the whole story. Its a celebration of the strength of family, in the good times and the bad. Its a window to a long ago past.
I loved the characters and was swept away by the book in a day; never has 500 pages go by so swiftly. Betty Smith could have written this book in 2016, far from being dated, the language is evocative and rich. My library copy came without a dust jacket or blurb to entice me to read it. I went in blind and fell in love. Its a story of small triumphs and major heartaches. The family is small but not insular and they have a great cast of supporting characters.
Totally worth the commitment to read.