Monday, April 9, 2012

Book It – Angela's Ashes

This week’s featured book:

Angela's Ashes
Author: Frank McCourt


“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 Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

‘Angela’s Ashes’, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

My Comments:

One of the most remarkable – and heartbreaking - memoirs I have ever read, ‘Angela’s Ashes’ will make you laugh out loud, cry, and then laugh out loud again. Frank McCourt grows up in the depths of misery, but despite the terrible hardships he faces, he always manages to hold on to a glimmer of hope. He survives horrific circumstances with humour, determination, forgiveness and appreciation for whatever small mercies he encounters along the way. When you finish reading this book, you will count your blessings!


  1. He is one of my favourite writers. Angela's Ashes was a hard read. Emotionally hard. And it stayed with me a long time. Just seeing your blog brought back the original feelings I had when i read it.

    1. It really was a hard read, and yet the writer manages to make you smile and even laugh out loud. I read all three of his books in this series and felt as if I knew him when I was done. He was so determined to succeed - and live!

  2. I also loved this book! Like you, I found it a tough read and I was often furious with their mother, but it was also very funny (black humour is my favourite) and heartwarming as well. I have meant to read 'Tis - was it as good?

    1. It's funny that I wasn't angrier with the father - he was a total rat, but I felt their mother was also neglectful and way too passive - granted she was beaten down. I was surprised by my feelings - I guess I hold us women to a higher standard!

    2. I felt the same way. I guess we expect more from mothers. Not that it's fair; just a knee-jerk reaction.

      'Tis was good but not one of the better ones. Next to this one, Teacher Man was amazing!