Skip to main content

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith


Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—certainly there are many similarities. Primary among them is the fact that Annie is a lot like Francie—childlike, optimistic, and always hopeful that things will be better. They both come from the same backgrounds and have similar kinds of mothers. Even the story of the sailor and the caul is identical in both books. The difference between them is that Annie is growing up in this novel—she goes through a significant amount of change as she makes the transition from childhood to adulthood. And she’s thrown into adulthood rather fast…

Because this novel is so autobiographical, Annie is the stronger of the two main characters; although the story isn’t written in the first person, we basically see everything from her point of view. This is a realistic book, depicting the characters and their straitened without rose-colored glasses. Although not married myself and lacking any background with which to sympathize, I enjoyed this book. However, I still don’t think it’s quite as good as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Comments

'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' is one of those books that we in the UK tend to have heard about but very few of us (certainly in my experience) have read. It's been on my tbr pile for years. (You know what such piles are like, I'm sure!) Now you offer me another one. I better dig up the earlier novel and start from there.
Karen K. said…
I never hear about anything by Betty Smith except a Tree Grows in Brooklyn! I did find an edition published with another of her books called Maggie Now at the library sale last year. Still haven't read it but I'm curious about that one too.
Jennifer Dee said…
I first read 'Joy in the Morning' a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. I then read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' and I have to agree this is one of my all time favourites. If you haven't read this book then please read it you won't be dissappointed.
Aarti said…
Oh, I'm so glad this book was good, too! I just read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last year and fell completely in love with it. I read about this book and thought it sounded very much like a sequel, based on how ATGIB ends. Glad that it's lovely, too.
judy said…
There is a movie! Made in 1965 with Yvette Mimieux and Richard Chamberlain. I did not know about this book before, even though I have also read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at least 4 times and loved it every time. Thanks for the review.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…