I wasn’t kidding yesterday about having another book review up today. I’d been reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as my Kindle book since I finished Leviathan Wakes. I typically have at least 3 books actively being read at a time, so even when it wasn’t my primary book, I was still working my way through pre-World War I Brooklyn.
It took me the better part of two months to work my way through the book for a couple of reasons.
The first is that it’s an older book. I’ve always had a little bit of trouble getting into the rhythm when picking up older books. I actually fell asleep reading A Tale of Two Cities in one of the early chapters because it just seemed so dull. After getting through the first couple of chapters, though, I picked up the rhythm of the writing and was able to get into the story. And it was one of my favorite books I’d read at the time (granted I was 14-15 at the time, so it’s not like I had an expansive list of comparisons). Even Mark Twain’s books were that way. Those are even better because he writes phonetically, so I mentally read those in accent (not unlike hearing Felicia Day’s and Anna Kendrick’s autobiographies in their voices).
Older books don’t have the same feel as contemporary books. Not being an English major, I can’t say the exact reason why beyond some guesses. One is just that they’re older, so there’s a different style. The other is that as education expands and we teach the same books in schools over and over again, there becomes a perception of the “right” way to write and structure a book. Older books don’t have those same chains from the past. In a way, older books feel fresher than newer books because the authors didn’t have the same preconceptions about writing.
But this change of feeling means I have to adapt my reading. You do the same things when listening to music. Older music has a different feel to it than newer music. If I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar, I’m not immediately thinking I should listen to Ben E. King right after.
The second is that it’s not cheery. It’s a good book and has its happy moments, but this is not a cheery book. I was a little bit scared off because it didn’t sound like a cheery book, and then I had a friend on Facebook mention how sad it was (though I think they were more specifically referring to the movie). When you have a book that deals with a child watching as her family struggles to make ends meet, you have to accept the fact that it’s not going to be a happy tale. And this tale in particular is about a self-aware, sensitive, lonely child. Adding slight malnourishment to the recipe means you’re going to get some pangs you just have to deal with.
The third is that I just wasn’t reading a bunch recently. I was still reading; I just wasn’t sitting down in the evenings to set aside much time to read. I’ve had other things occupying my time, so binge reading went by the wayside. I don’t think I’m going to be binge reading any time soon, but I should be able to read a bit more often in the near future. But I guess we’ll see.
And the fourth is that I was traveling some in these couple of months. Normally, this is when I catch up on my reading, and I did to an extent. But I prefer hard copies when I’m traveling, so that’s how I ended up finishing Bloodsucking Fiends first despite starting it a week ago.
Ok, but are you going to actually review the book?
Sure, why not?
It’s a great book. It’s a classic, though, so if you haven’t already read it, I’m not sure that this review is going to pull you in.
What got me to read the book was it being on sale through Kindle. I’m a sucker for books that cost a dollar or two that I’ve actually heard of. And then it sat on my Kindle for a year.
Again, older books aren’t easy to get into.
I’ve got bank of about 10 books on Kindle that need to be read, so I’m being purposeful right now to not buy any books until I make a dent in this backlog. I’m not even buying hard copies, which means when I want to hold a book, I’m re-reading, which doesn’t bother me, but it limits my option as I pick the next book.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age tale of a second generation American who’s grandparents came from the old country (though both sets came from a different old country). I probably identified with the main character more than I’d appreciate, so that made it a better and sometimes more painful read. There are certain times where you don’t want to identify with a character’s experiences.
What makes the book warm is family and people stretching to the edge of their means to help others out. What makes the book sad is that they had to do that in the first place and that kids are caught up in the mistakes of adults.
Another part of the sadness is that you have a child who’s clearly isolated from the world around her in a lot of ways, especially other children. There’s a loneliness in the lead character that seeps in throughout the book. And the way the author tells of the meanness that people can put on each other, it’s a reality we can all understand, no matter which side of it we’ve been on.
All in all, this is one of those classics I’d recommend reading. It’s not always fun. There’s no supernatural mystery. There’s no love story about a boy wooing a girl in a completely unrealistic way (really, using your Make a Wish to see a reclusive author on another continent?). And it’s not some existential crisis that seems to pervade contemporary fiction. It’s a 70-year-old breath of fresh air.
Ok, that should be it from me for a while, so enjoy the long weekend, nerds.