Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela's Ashes

“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 childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Bro...

Title:Angela's Ashes
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0007205236
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:432 pages

Angela's Ashes Reviews

  • 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}

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • George Bradford

    How can ONE book be so WONDERFUL and so HORRIBLE at the same time? I have no idea. But this book is both. Big time.

    It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than a childhood crushed under the oppressive conditions of abject poverty, relentless filth and unmitigated suffering. The childhood described in this book is the worst I’ve ever encountered. The “luck

    How can ONE book be so WONDERFUL and so HORRIBLE at the same time? I have no idea. But this book is both. Big time.

    It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than a childhood crushed under the oppressive conditions of abject poverty, relentless filth and unmitigated suffering. The childhood described in this book is the worst I’ve ever encountered. The “lucky” children suffer injuries or illnesses that (due to poverty) go untreated and result in death. The rest suffer miserable existences. Actually, “suffer” and “miserable” are not adequate to describe the experience. The children in

    would have traded their lives for a life of merely suffering a miserable childhood in a heartbeat.

    And yet, somehow, Frank McCourt achieves a brilliant feat in this book. He tells a horrific story that caused me to cringe, grind my teeth, cry and loose sleep worrying. This book affected me physically. It was beyond upsetting. But McCourt wrote it in a way that kept me reading. As depressing as it was I could not put it down. McCourt’s writing is mesmerizing.

  • 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.


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