Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 1996
Categories: Ethnic Cultures, Memoir, Historical
Source: My own copy

“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 Thoughts:

Why haven’t I read this before now? I’ll let you in on a little secret about me. I avoid the hype. When the world raves about something I stay away from it. Not all the time, but most of the time. So, when this book first came out I probably put on my snooty little hat and decided not to read it until the crazy died down.

Pulitzer Prize? Hmph!

Why do I do that? Am I snobby? Do I think I’m too cool to like something that other people like? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m pissed off at myself for not reading Angela’s Ashes sooner.

What a stunning, heartbreaking piece of work it is. Oh my word. The writing is acute, vivid and just so GOOD. There were times that I laughed and laughed at some phrase by McCourt. Then there were times that I wanted to cry and cry because people kept dying

Omg. Please stop the sad.

What else can I say about this book that hasn’t been said a million times before? It’s glorious. It’s genius. Angela’s Ashes deserved the hype. If you haven’t read it yet please do so. You won’t regret it.

25 thoughts on “Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

  1. I'm so glad that you liked it! I loved it as well. I've read is 2nd book Tis. It was much angrier. I really need to read Teacher Man, his last book.Kendal


  2. I haven't read this yet, mainly because I can't take the sad. I remember classmates reading this in middle school (I think; does that sound right? Or is this book to mature for 11-year-olds and I'm confusing it with something else?), but I stayed as far away as possible from a book with \”ashes\” in the title. I really should read it now that I'm a more mature reader.


  3. This is indeed a sad and beautiful book. I'm right with you avoiding the hype though. I figure the great books are still great if I read them months or years later and I probably saved myself some grief by not reading the terrible ones.


  4. I have not read this either and I really need to give it a try. I have heard that this was really good.I am very much like you in that I usually avoid things that are popular. One reason for me is that the p[popularity does not seem to USUALLY effect my choices and there is so much out there that is unpopular that I want to try.


  5. That is a really good point. I try (with partial success) to avoid the reviews of books I haven't read yet. But if a blogger or publication I really like reviews a book, I try to come back to it after I have finished it.


  6. Love this book and the movie is fairly decent for an adaptation. It helps to visually see how grim his life was. Angela's Ashes is one of my husband's favorite novels of all time.


  7. I've been meaning to read this book for so long… I don't know why I keep putting it off. It's probably one of the books that has been on my shelf the longest. Thanks for your thoughts, I hope I can get to it sooner than later. =/


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