When I met my girlfriend she was reading this book under the auspice of “re-reading a classic she loved as a kid.” If I hadn’t been at the tale end of a Masters degree at the time I would have immediately picked it up and read it. I love homework. A few months later we were apart for a bit and when I asked her to recommend me some books, she picked a lot of somewhat older books with spitfire protagonist women and I dived in. This book got put by the wayside. In addition, a friend of mine whose sour-ass opinions on everything I also admire and respect also spoke admiringly about this book. Born and raised in Brooklyn by way of Puerto Rico, I took it as high praise.
So, some 3 years later I finally picked it up again.
Having seen the movie that came out in the ’40s and not really understanding the different between print and film of that era, I assumed that this would be a sentimental classic full of spritely characters, maybe some precociousness, etc etc etc.
But holy crap! Gambling! Hookers! Corrupt politicians! Hoodlums! Sex! And more!
This book is awesome. So so so awesome. If you have a book group coming up and not sure what you should read and want something that feels a little dirty because it’s ahead of its time. This. If you’re looking for something that is funny and heartfelt and full of pathos. This. If you want something that speaks to corruption and ineptness and evil that lurks in the hearts of the American Dream and the American spirit. This.
This book has everything. And because it’s told from (mostly) the perspective of a child, the innocence of the character allows for a calculated incisiveness that wouldn’t otherwise happen. And because you care about that child, you really feel for the struggles she goes through.
It’s nice and long too, if you’re into that kind of thing.
It’s a truly rewarding book that really gets at iniquity and inequity. It doesn’t gloss over the issues of America. It’s beautifully written and scathing all at the same time.
The only other book I can even begin to compare it to, and which you should absolutely drop everything to read, is Ann Petry’s The Street, which also brilliant captures the messed upness of our world.