Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes

Imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion. This is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic."When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish child...

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Title:Angela's Ashes
Author:Frank McCourt
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Edition Language:English

Angela's Ashes Reviews

  • Gail

    What, did NO one find this book funny except me??? I must be really perverse.

    Although the account of Frank's bad eyes was almost physically painful to read, the rest of the story didn't seem too odd or sad or overdone to me. My dad's family were immigrants; his father died young of cirrhosis of the liver, leaving my grandmother to raise her six living children (of a total of 13) on a cleaning woman's pay. So? Life was hard. They weren't Irish and they lived in New York, but when you hear that yo

    What, did NO one find this book funny except me??? I must be really perverse.

    Although the account of Frank's bad eyes was almost physically painful to read, the rest of the story didn't seem too odd or sad or overdone to me. My dad's family were immigrants; his father died young of cirrhosis of the liver, leaving my grandmother to raise her six living children (of a total of 13) on a cleaning woman's pay. So? Life was hard. They weren't Irish and they lived in New York, but when you hear that your dad occasionally trapped pigeons and roasted them to eat, you develop a certain, er, resistance to tales of woe. They worked hard and did the best they could. And in between, life could be really, really funny. That's how I saw this book. After reading some of the reviews here, I'm beginning to think I read a different book. Or that I'm completely odd, which is much more likely.

  • Mitch Albom

    I read his book, then I got to know him, and rarely will you find as similar a voice between the man and the writer as in this memoir. A tragic gem of a childhood story.

  • Brina

    I think I read Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt initially when the book was first published. In high school at the time, my mother and I shared books. I was introduced to all of her favorite authors that way and most of these authors I still read now. One author who was new to both of us at the time was New York school teacher Frank McCourt who published a memoir of his life growing up in Brooklyn and Limerick, Ireland. As with most books from that era, I had vague recollections because I spent t

    I think I read Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt initially when the book was first published. In high school at the time, my mother and I shared books. I was introduced to all of her favorite authors that way and most of these authors I still read now. One author who was new to both of us at the time was New York school teacher Frank McCourt who published a memoir of his life growing up in Brooklyn and Limerick, Ireland. As with most books from that era, I had vague recollections because I spent the next twenty years finishing high school and college and raising a family. Books I read in high school were not at the forefront of my mind. Since my youngest daughter transitioned to a full school day three years ago, I have gone back and read all of those forgotten to me books from high school through adult eyes. The experience has been for the most part positive with only a few books that stand out as disliking. With my ongoing lifetime Pulitzer challenge focusing on nonfiction winners this year, I decided to finally turn my attention back to Angela’s Ashes and found it a worthy book indeed.

    Angela Sheehan immigrated to America from Limerick, Ireland at the onset of the Depression. Life in the slums of Limerick was unbearable even for a champion ballroom dancer like Angela. Immediately after stepping off the boat, Angela meets Malachy McCourt and becomes pregnant by him. Being good Catholics, the couple gets married. Five months later, Frank is born, followed in close succession by Malachy, twins Oliver and Eugène, and Margaret. Malachy (the father) is a chronic drunk and spends all of his wages on drinks in local pubs. The children have no food, Margaret dies from SIDS, the twins wear rags for diapers, and Angela is inconsolable. At the urging of cousins, the family emigrates back to Limerick because as destitute as life is there, the McCourts will be among family who can support them in their desperate hour.

    Ireland and its green land of the River Shannon and Cuchulain the hero who died for the country do not solve Malachy’s drinking problem. He can barely hold a job and Angela and the children still have barely any food to eat. The children still wear rags for diapers and the family shares two beds in flea and lice infested apartments where an entire building shares one bathroom. The twins succumb to illness and all is too much for Angela to handle. Her mother and sister have no sympathy for her situation and the family is relegated to going on the dole and asking for handouts at St Vincent of the Destitute. The McCourts eventually move to a home at the top of Roden Lane. It is as decrepit as their other homes but at least no one died there despite having one lavatory for the entire street that is right outside of their home. Although a chronic drunk, Malachy makes the best of the situation naming the downstairs portion of their home Ireland and the upstairs Italy. The children rarely have food but at least they have each other and stories told of old Ireland by the fireplace each morning.

    Frank and Malachy and eventually surviving brothers Michael and Alphonsus attend the Leamy National School for the poor. Run by priests, it is a quality education despite the fact that most of the boys rarely eat, wear dilapidated shoes, and have parents who survive on the dole or handouts. The River Shannon and its environs sickens the air and Frank can name many friends and acquaintances who have died over the years of consumption. Yet, despite the horrendous upbringing that Frank McCourt knew, Angela’s Ashes had me laughing over the course of the book as he used humor to get through the darkest of situations of his life. His uncle Pa Keating was quite the character and interactions with him had me in stitches. Frank’s fear of confession to the priests and then his time in confession was also laced with comedy, as were most every other episode in the memoir, including dance lessons and mooching off school to run in an apple orchard with friends. If the situation was not so dire, perhaps comedy would not have been needed, yet Frank McCourt had a gift with words even as a kid. It was this gift that had his mother and other relatives telling him that he would go far in life in spite of the environs of Limerick during the darkest days of both the Depression and World War II.

    With a drunk father and destitute mother, Frank desired to go to America as soon as he had the means to do so. By age nineteen, he sailed on a reverse trip back to New York and Frank was in America to stay. Eventually Malachy would follow and they would develop a comedic act for two about growing up poor in Ireland. Angela’s Ashes, despite the impoverished environment that it describes, is one of the most inspiring books I have read. How could anyone have an attitude other than positive and expect to rise from the slums of Limerick and make something of one’s life. Frank McCourt could find humor in any situation, even one that saw his parents bury three children and live for nearly twenty years on public assistance. Angela’s Ashes brings to light this horrendous situation and has me realize that even though the United States was also hit by depression, it is still the land of opportunity for people around the globe, the McCourts included. Thankfully, Frank McCourt reached New York and eventually told his story to the world, offering a beacon of light in even the darkest of times.

    5 stars

  • Eric Althoff

    Before I get too deep into my review, let me just say this: "Angela's Ashes" is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. That said, it is also fascinating, heartbreaking, searingly honest narration told in the face of extreme poverty and alcoholism. This absolutely entrancing memoir follows an Irish-American-Irish-American (more on this later) boy who comes of age during the Depression and the War years in a country gripped in the stranglehold of the Catholic Church, tradition, rampant

    Before I get too deep into my review, let me just say this: "Angela's Ashes" is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. That said, it is also fascinating, heartbreaking, searingly honest narration told in the face of extreme poverty and alcoholism. This absolutely entrancing memoir follows an Irish-American-Irish-American (more on this later) boy who comes of age during the Depression and the War years in a country gripped in the stranglehold of the Catholic Church, tradition, rampant poverty and unemployment, and the seemingly ubiquitous curse of the Irish: alcohol.

    Young Frank McCourt is born in American barely five months after his parents were wed. (Naturally, he will ask later about the math.) His father squanders the family's wages at the pubs and soon the family (with new children seeming to drop on a regular basis) moves back to Ireland. Frank and his family move from slum to slum as his father drifts aimlessly from one job to the next and from one pub to the next, coming home at midnight to rouse his boys from bed, making them promise to die for Ireland. Everywhere for Frank is misery: at school, at home, in the weather, in the dreary conditions of Limerick, and in a fiercly pious populace. Forced to be a man long before most kids even have a paper route, Frank is soon working to supplement whatever his mother can get handed from the government or begging while his father is off working and drinking in England's wartime industries. Frank dreams only of returning to America, where "everyone is a movie star."

    This novel is so incredibly heartbreaking not only because it is true, but because it highlights the devastating conditions faced by millions (and which sadly continue). The work is a stinging indictment of alcoholism without being a polemic, merely a recollection of what was everday life of the narrator's family, courtesy of his father's drinking. McCourt's supreme strength is in narrating the book through the eyes of his younger self rather than as an adult commentating or proselytizing about what he saw and did as a young man. The young Frank makes choices out of survival instincts and simply because they seemed right at the time (i.e. stealing to eat while promising himself to pay it all back later). On top of the normal perils of adolescence--sexual awakening and social awkardness--Frank, and countless young people like him, needed to grow up far too early to stave of homelessness for himself and his family in the absence of his drifter, drinking father. And ultimately, it is also the quintessential immigrant story of saving up enough to leave the Old Country behind in pursuit of a better life in America.

    Approach "Angela's Ashes" with both caution and an open mind. Bring tissues and try not to condemn. Be like young Frank: Observe without damning.

  • David

    But the worst offender of the last twenty years has to be the uniquely meretricious drivel that constitutes "Angela's Ashes". Dishonest at every level, slimeball McCourt managed to parlay his mawkish maunderings to commercial success, presumably because the particular assortment of rainsodden cliches hawked in the book not only dovetails beautifully with the stereotypes lodged in the brain of every American of Irish descent, but also panders to the lummoxes collective need to feel superior becau

    But the worst offender of the last twenty years has to be the uniquely meretricious drivel that constitutes "Angela's Ashes". Dishonest at every level, slimeball McCourt managed to parlay his mawkish maunderings to commercial success, presumably because the particular assortment of rainsodden cliches hawked in the book not only dovetails beautifully with the stereotypes lodged in the brain of every American of Irish descent, but also panders to the lummoxes collective need to feel superior because they have managed to transcend their primitive, bog-soaked origins, escaping the grinding poverty imagined in the book, to achieve - what? Spiritual fulfilment in the split-level comfort of a Long Island ranch home? And Frankie the pimp misses not a beat, tailoring his mendacity to warp the portrayal of reality in just the way his audience likes.

    No native Irish reader, myself included, has anything but the deepest contempt for this particular exercise in literary prostitution and the cynical weasel responsible for it.

    {my apologies to the fine people of Long Island, for the unnecessary vehemence of the implied slur in the above review: clearly it is not meant to be all-encompassing}

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