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Frank McCourt #1

Angela's Ashes

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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 childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

So begins the Pulitzer Prize winning 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.

452 pages, Paperback

First published September 5, 1996

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About the author

Frank McCourt

55 books2,141 followers
Francis "Frank" McCourt was an Irish-American teacher and author. McCourt was born in Brooklyn; however, his family returned to their native Ireland in 1934.

He received the Pulitzer Prize (1997) and National Book Critics Circle Award (1996) for his memoir Angela's Ashes (1996), which details his childhood as a poor Irish Catholic in Limerick. He is also the author of 'Tis (1999), which continues the narrative of his life, picking up from the end of the previous book and focusing on life as a new immigrant in America. Teacher Man (2005), detailed the challenges of being a young, uncertain teacher who must impart knowledge to his students. His works are often part of the syllabus in high schools. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario.

He died Sunday, July 19, 2009 of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. He was 78.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,554 reviews
Profile Image for Eric Althoff.
124 reviews20 followers
December 4, 2013
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.

Profile Image for Gail.
371 reviews9 followers
April 15, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Mitch Albom.
Author 105 books108k followers
November 18, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
September 1, 2021
Angela's Ashes: a memoir of a childhood (Frank McCourt #1), Frank McCourt

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir is a 1996 memoir by the Irish-American author Frank McCourt, with various anecdotes and stories of his childhood.

The narrative is told from the point of view of Frankie as a child.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on 19 August 1930, Frank (Francis) McCourt is the oldest son of Malachy McCourt and Angela Sheehan McCourt.

Both of his parents emigrated from Ireland and married in a shotgun wedding over Angela's pregnancy with Frankie.

Angela is from Limerick, Ireland, and is fond of music, singing, and dancing.

Malachy, from Northern Ireland, is an alcoholic known for his "odd manner" and for telling the stories about Irish heroes.

Frankie is said to resemble his father, having a hang-dog face and the same "odd manner."

In Brooklyn, the McCourts live in modern tenement housing next to a park and share a floor, and an indoor lavatory, with other immigrant families.

Frankie has four younger siblings in Brooklyn: Malachy, born in 1931; twins Oliver and Eugene, born in 1932; and an infant sister, Margaret, in 1935.

The family struggles with poverty because Malachy Sr.'s efforts to find work are complicated by his alcoholism.

The family's prospects, and Angela's spirits, lift whenever he finds a new job and brings home his wages, but soon he finds himself spending all of his pay in bars, despite Angela's schemes to prevent him from doing so. He loses each job after a few weeks. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «خاکسترهای آنجلا»؛ «خاکستر آنجلا»؛ «اجاق سرد آنجلا»؛ «اشک آنجلا»؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هجدهم ماه سپتامبر سا�� 2001میلادی

عنوان: خاکسترهای آنجلا؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ مترجم: پریسا محمدی نژنده؛ تهران، درفام، 1377؛ موضوع: سرگذشتنامه امریکاییهای ایرلندی تبار - آداب و رسوم مردمان ایرلند - سده 20م

عنوان: اجاق سرد آنجلا؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ مترجم: گلی امامی؛ تهران، فرزان روز، 1379؛ در 600ص؛ شابک 9643210529؛ چاپ سوم 1385؛ شابک 9789643210526؛ چاپ پنجم 13933؛

عنوان: اشک آنجلا؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ مترجم: زهرا تابشیان؛ تهران، نشر دشتستان، 1378؛ در 518ص؛ شابک 9649174877؛

عنوان: خاکستر آنجلا؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ مترجم: نینا پزشکیان؛ تهران، بدرقه جاویدان، 1380؛ در 618ص؛ شابک 9649345469؛

عنوان: خاکسترهای آنجلا؛ نویسنده: فرانک مک کورت؛ مترجم: منیژه شیخ جوادی (بهزاد)؛ تهران، پیکان، 1384؛ در 470 ص؛

خود نگاشت زندگینامه ای اثر «فرانک مک کورت» است؛ «خاکسترهای آنجلا»، یا «اجاق سرد آنجلا»، اتوبیوگرافی نویسنده ی ایرلندی تبار آمریکایی، که در سال 1996میلادی برای نخستین بار منتشر شده‌ است؛ رمان زندگی «فرانک مک‌ کورت» در «کودکی»، و «نوجوانی»؛ در «بروکلین نیویورک»، و «لیمریک (شهری در ایرلند)» است؛ داستان، شرح زندگی فقیرانه ی «فرانک»، پدر دائم‌ الخمرش «مالکی»، که پولی برای خانواده باقی نمی‌گذاشته، و نیز بازگویی تلاش‌های مادرش «آنجلا»، برای نجات خانواده است؛ خاکسترهای «آنجلا»، برنده ی جایزه ی «پولیتزر»، در رشته ی زندگی‌نامه در سال 1997میلادی شده؛ «فرانک مک‌کورت»، کتابک «تیز» را در سال 1999میلادی، و «آقا معلم» را در سال 2005میلادی، به عنوان دنباله ی «خاکسترهای آنجلا» به چاپ رسانده اند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 09/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Brina.
887 reviews4 followers
January 15, 2019
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
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews108 followers
December 19, 2021
The title of this book can also be "How to find humor and "excitement" in pain and poverty?"

#sad #funny #warm #honest #hope #survival #must-read

Frank McCourt`s Angela's Ashes is a very interesting and a different kind of memoir... this will remain in your memory for a long time. Frank has written this book so well that most of the times, it feels like we are on this journey along with him.

This memoir will teach us to find humor and laughter, even during the toughest times of life.

"The master says it's a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland, and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live."
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,283 followers
July 15, 2007
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}
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews871 followers
February 10, 2017
There once was a lad reared in Limerick,
Quite literally without a bone to pick.
His da used scant earnings
To slake liquid yearnings;
In American parlance – a dick.

To get past a father who drank
In a place that was dismal and dank,
He wrote not in rhymes,
But of those shite times
A memoir that filled up his bank.
Profile Image for Julie G .
870 reviews2,683 followers
March 15, 2018
Life is suffering.

And the root of all suffering is want.

And we want. Oh, we want.

We want the husband to keep the job and come home sober. We want the kids to live. We want shoes and clothes that fit and don't have holes. We want to eat. We want a roof that doesn't leak and indoor plumbing, for Christ's sake.

We want the priest with the servant not to kick us from his door and tell us our suffering is caused by sin. We want something kinder than guilt or shame.

We want friendship. We want love. We want more.

Oh, we want.

But why would YOU want to read this almost twenty year old memoir set in a far earlier time? What, after all, do you have in common with a brutally honest and witty boy growing up during the Depression and World War II in Limerick, Ireland?

Well, have you ever wanted anything?
Profile Image for George Bradford.
144 reviews
March 17, 2008
“If you had the luck of the Irish
You’d be sorry and wish you was dead
If you had the luck of the Irish
Then you’d wish you was English instead”

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 “Angela’s Ashes” 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.

Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,113 reviews8,043 followers
July 10, 2016
Quite different from other memoirs I read--especially the brand of memoir that's been coming out in the last few years--Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes tells of the author's poverty-stricken childhood in Ireland in the early 20th century. It's told from the first person present perspective, which doesn't allow for as much mature reflection, but it does create a very immediate & immersive atmosphere. And speaking of atmosphere, McCourt writes so descriptively and which such skill that you can really picture everything he's talking about. It's incredibly well written, with a Joycean stream of consciousness that again contributes to the immersive quality of the story. I'd recommend taking your time with this one, not only because it's depressive nature is a bit too much to bear in large quantities, but also because there's so much to savor and appreciate about McCourt's story and writing. I see why this is a modern classic.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
November 27, 2018
This autobiographical book about Frank McCourt's childhood is so lyrical and well-written that I fell in love with it by the time I was on the second page. And then it seriously took my heart and ripped it into little shreds and stomped on the remains.

When I read Angela's Ashes my children were really young, about the ages of Frank and his siblings at the start of the book. I found the story of their neglect-filled childhood in New York and Ireland - with a helpless mother and an alcoholic father who spends his odd paychecks, as well as their welfare payments, in the pubs and lets his family starve and children die - so harrowing that I literally shoved the book under my bed after I'd read about a hundred pages and tried to forget what I'd read. It was at least a couple of months before I could bring myself to pull it back out again and finish it.

Life got better for Frank McCourt as he got older, and I managed to finish the book without more tears, but it's that heartwrenching first part of this book that really sticks in my memory years later.
Profile Image for Beata.
714 reviews1,088 followers
November 7, 2017
I just felt depressed while reading this novel. You can't imagine that people could live in such poverty and yet survive somehow. The book is gripping but makes you feel helpless..
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,852 reviews16.4k followers
April 2, 2016
Angela’s Ashes is a beautifully written, painfully honest account of Frank McCourt’s childhood in Limerick, Ireland.

Frank’s parents, both Irish, met in New York and began their family there. McCourt himself was born in New York, but this was in the 1930s and the depression hurt everyone and everywhere, especially immigrant Irish with no resources.

So back to Ireland they go to live near his maternal grandmother. 1930s Limerick was not much better than New York, especially for Frank’s father who spoke with a “north of Ireland accent”.

Succinctly stated, the novel begins with this statement: “Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood”.

Told with equal parts humor and sobriety, this swings rapidly from hilarious to heartbreaking. A good book.

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,386 reviews11.8k followers
July 28, 2016
Picked this memoire to experience some more foreign countries through literature. Good choice. What could have easily been another misery porn (immense poverty, hunger, never-ending unwanted pregnancies, drunkenness, strict religion, deaths of TB and pneumonia on every other page) became something more because of the author's remarkable voice, filled with innocence, humor and almost unwavering optimism of childhood. Amazing that McCourt managed to preserve this voice well into his 60s.
Profile Image for Adam Floridia.
583 reviews30 followers
June 6, 2013
I had not planned on writing a proper review, so I began to read others'. Quite a few unleashed verbal vitriol at McCourt's memoir, claiming that it is not entirely accurate and that it is too mawkish/maudlin/bathetic. Others claim that the author romanticizes the penury and destitution of the lives in his lane.

First, no memoir can ever be 100% truthful; our memories are incomplete and sporadic (at best). In fact, as I read I liked that there were NO quotation marks used to indicate speech. I actually thought that was a subtle way to indicate the author wholeheartedly admitting that it is impossible to accurately recall conversations from one's childhood. The book does not have to represent a meticulously accurate picture of what Limerick was like at the time; all it has to do, and all any memoir purports to do, is reveal what life in a particular place was like AS EXPERIENCED BY THE AUTHOR. Plus, who cares about inaccuracies--a good story is a good story.

To say it is maudlin is extreme. There are many unfortunate events that take place; however, not once did I get the sense that McCourt was trying to manipulate his readers' sympathies. Events were described as a child would experience them...kind of like a Scout Finch as narrator. It is this fact that led some reviewers to claim that McCourt romanticized the rampant squalor and death. That would be like saying To Kill a Mockingbird romanticizes racial prejudice.

Anyway, it was an absorbing read filled with personal tragedies and laced with humor. Definitely worth a read.

If I were not such a jackass in high school, perhaps I would have appreciated Frank McCourt speaking at my graduation and even read this ten years ago. I wish I had.
Profile Image for Andrei Bădică.
365 reviews152 followers
July 30, 2017
" Când tata vine acasă cu leafa din prima săptămână, mama e încântată că poate plăti datoria italianului drăguț de la băcănie și că poate ține iar capul sus, fiindcă nimic nu e mai rău pe lume decât să fii dator și obligat față de cineva. Face curat în bucătărie, spală cănile și farfuriile, curăță masa de firimituri și de resturi de mâncare, golește răcitorul și comandă o nouă bucată de gheață de la alt italian."
" Trebuie să studiați și să învățați, spuse el, ca să vă faceți o părere proprie despre istorie și toate celelalte, dar ce părere să vă faceți dacă vă fluieră vântul prin minte. Mobilați-vă mintea, mobilați-vă mintea. E casa voastră prețioasă și nimeni pe lumea asta nu se poate atinge de ea. Dacă ați câștiga la Loteria Irlandei și v-ați cumpăra o casă care are nevoie de mobilă, ați umple-o cu resturi și gunoaie?"
Profile Image for Jonathan Ashleigh.
Author 1 book118 followers
January 14, 2016
I have to admit that I didn't love the first third of this book but I realize the information gained there made me enjoy the rest even more. At times, this book was a beautiful dark comedy, "There is nothing like a wake for having a good time," and I think that some day I might make my kids promise to die for Ireland. Near the end, the young boy is trying to figure out what adultery is by looking it up in the dictionary; he is forced to look up new words with each explanation he finds and the result it priceless. There is also a part where an old man has the young boy read A Modest Proposal. I love that essay and just read a parody of it within another parody, The Sorrows of Young Mike. I love books which reference the piece and would appreciate people to let me know any other works that mention the satire in the comments below.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,603 followers
May 21, 2017
If you are afraid of your emotions, whether the depth or variety of them, don't read this book. If you can allow yourself to explore them fully by being led through an incredible life's early journey and experiencing the range of feeling available to humanity, you will love this book.
Profile Image for Kerri.
972 reviews344 followers
February 10, 2023
I tried to read this about ten years ago and gave up after the first chapter - I just couldn't connect with it. This time around was a completely different story. I loved the way Frank McCourt writes, it's lyrical and beautiful even while describing a very bleak situation. His childhood is one of poverty--- siblings die, his father is a drunk, there is never enough food, the housing sounds appalling. It's a very depressing book, as this was the reality for so many people, but there are also moments of humour and sweetness.
I'll be reading the second volume soon as I am very invested in Frank's journey.
Profile Image for Teresa.
3 reviews6 followers
May 30, 2007
In Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt paints a picture of a childhood mired in poverty. He manages to be humorous and heartbreaking, and hopeless and triumphant all at once. I laughed, I cried, I felt dearly for the disadvantaged McCourt family that struggled against all odds.

The memoir borrows heavily from the art of realism -- as tales of impoverished childhoods usually are. McCourt was born in depression era Brooklyn to an alcoholic father who spent all his wages at the bar, and a mother disgraced and desperate to feed her starving children. Here, we have a glimpse at the life of an Irish family living in a ratty (but ethnically diverse) tenement building. The children were often left their own devices, while the adults struggled with adult problems -- keeping a home, putting food on the table, etc. Loss is a prevalent and recurring theme in the book. Frankie's siblings, as young as several months, were victims of death many times.

Things don't improve when they move back to Ireland to start over. Their North-Irish and alcoholic of a father couldn't find work, drank all the charity money they managed to get, and eventually abandoned his family for good. Meanwhile, the rest of the family must overcompensate by stealing, begging, and applying for public assistance -- the shame of which deeply affect each member of the family. Additionally, Frankie, a devout Catholic, must reconcile his church values and practices with stealing to feed his family, his sexual awakening, and the continuing deaths of his family and acquaintances.

All in all, fantastic depression-era slice-of-life of a poor Irish family. McCourt is soulful and has a way with weaving tales and building characters. He makes you laugh and cry with the family, and keeps you rooting for their survival. I was very engaged and was sorry it had to end (a bit too abruptly too, I must say.) Five stars.
19 reviews3 followers
August 22, 2007
It's been ten years since I've read this book. Like everyone else I was floored by it when it first came out. But time and age have made me wiser.

I don't think it's stood the test of time and the more I think of it... my grandmother is right. It's a one-sided, depressing view of life in Ireland.

"Woah is me..." is the book in a nutshell. This book simply has you marinate in negativity. Maybe I've read too much Phillip Roth in the meantime and compared to his characters this book seems too whiny and annoying.

I read masterieces like the Grapes of Wrath or As I Lay Dying and they still ring true. This? Not so much.

You want to know about Ireland:

read the series of books starting with The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan.

"In 1798, Irish patriots, committed to freeing their country from England, landed with a company of French troops in County Mayo, in westernmost Ireland. They were supposed to be an advance guard, followed by other French ships with the leader of the rebellion, Wolfe Tone. Briefly they triumphed, raising hopes among the impoverished local peasantry (our ancestors) and gathering a group of supporters (wouldn't be suprised if one of them fought...) But before long the insurgency collapsed in the face of a brutal English counterattack.

Very few books succeed in registering the sudden terrible impact of historical events; Thomas Flanagan's is one. Subtly conceived, masterfully paced, with a wide and memorable cast of characters, The Year of the French brings to life peasants and landlords, Protestants and Catholics, along with old and abiding questions of secular and religious commitments, empire, occupation, and rebellion. It is quite simply a great historical novel."

or James Joyce's The Dubliners or Ulysses...

or Sean O'Casey The Plough & the Stars

or William Inge's Playboy of the Western World

Profile Image for Mark.
393 reviews302 followers
May 24, 2012
Couldn't bear it. Whiney, self-obsessed and smacked of disingenuity. Using misery, either yours (imagined) or others (purloined) to make money seems to be the height/depth of cheap shots. Someone once told me of a review of the book that they had read somewhere

'Baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died; it rained'.

Admittedy there was more to it than that, however I read it a long time ago and the gloom of the misery and rain hangs still over the whole thing in a ridiculously hyperbolic manner. The father, an irresponsible drunken wastrel I just wanted to hit about the head quite dramatically with anything I could lay my hands on and the mother, an horrendous slatterny doormat, I found massively unsympathetic . I can only think of one character who i warmed to and as i remember she was dying of something or other.

Did not enjoy this and that was not because it brought me into contact with the suffering and misery of my fellow human beings which I couldn't bear to see but because it didn't. It did not ring true and was a sounding gong or clanging cymbal, making lots of noise but very little sense.
Profile Image for Carmo.
637 reviews465 followers
April 2, 2017
Frank McCourt, não precisou puxar pela cabeça para escrever um livro repleto de ingredientes que lhe garantissem sucesso imediato, bastou-lhe desfiar as memórias da infância passada nos bairros pobres de Limerick, na Irlanda.
Quis a sorte (ou o azar) que tivesse nascido numa família regada a cerveja, reinante na ignorância e na miséria, abençoados e condenados por um catolicismo fervoroso. A educação - em casa e na escola - era feita na base da chapada pedagógica, desde cedo que os miúdos aprendiam a defender-se e a desenrascar-se por sua conta.
O brilhantismo do autor está na façanha de fazer deste ror de misérias uma história emocionante que ultrapassa qualquer ficção, de a ter contado com graça e ternura quando tinha todas as razões para se deixar levar pelo rancor. Com um sentido de humor extraordinário conta-nos a sua vida dos quatro aos dezanove anos. Anos de fome e desamor, mas também de momentos mágicos que só na inocência da infância se conseguem desfrutar.
Um livro maravilhoso que se lê sempre com sorriso. Fez-me rir, fez-me chorar, às vezes as duas coisas ao mesmo tempo.

Recebeu vários prémios literários de relevo: o Pulitzer de 1997, O National Book Award, e o Los Angeles Times Award.
Mereceu-os todos!
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
December 26, 2014
This is one of the most depressing and heartbreaking true-life novels I've ever read so be forewarned, this Pulitzer Prize winner is pretty tough to take.

In the beginning, Francis (Frank) McCourt's family story starts out so desperate, you think it can't get any worse, BUT....IT....DOES!

Frankie had a very short and dreadful childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Even at age four with only the clothes (rags) on his back, he had adult responsibilities caring for his twin baby brothers, changing and washing dirty diapers by hand (with no coal to heat the water), taking them to the park (ordered to keep them away until dark) and trying desperately to entertain them so they will stop crying.......of starvation! With no sheets or blankets on the lice and flea-ridden mattress plus the sewage that often overflowed into the kitchen, it is a wonder that any of Angela's six? (I lost count) children survived. I think if I would have had to read one more episode about daddy picking up his dole money at the Labor Exchange on Friday and proceeding to drink it ALL away AGAIN I truly would have thrown this book across the room!!! (and I dearly love my books), but thankfully this non-fiction nightmare came to an end...at least for me.

Frank McCourt lived until the age of 78 and does have a sequel to this novel, "TIS", that continues his life story in America for those interested. (The significance of the title "Angela's Ashes" was not what I thought it would be)

Profile Image for Peter.
89 reviews46 followers
October 7, 2019
What makes this book special and makes it evocative of the era, is not just the painful details of a poverty-stricken Irish Catholic childhood lived during World War II, but the beautiful voice of the young Frank McCourt. The man, the writer of this book, the adult Frank McCourt, brings his youthful self alive in a way that brings the reader into direct contact with the author as a child.

The details of McCourt’s life and the things that young Frank notices evoke a certain era, and certain struggles that have been well documented both in fiction and non-fiction. But no one produced a young Frank McCourt. This character, real and reanimated, leaps from the pages to join the reader’s household.

Like few other books I’ve read, Angela’s Ashes is a cure for loneliness. When you read this prize-winning memoir, you’re not alone, but instead have young and humorous Frank standing over your shoulder telling you what mam says and what da says. In this classically dysfunctional Irish Catholic family the parents advice rarely agrees leaving little Frankie to figure life out for himself—another archetypal element from the Irish Catholic childhoods of a few generations ago.

This book transcends the genre, making it fully deserving of the attention and prizes lauded to it and its author.
August 22, 2019
I just love it when I come across a book as beautiful and extraordinary as this one. As I had already watched the film of "Angela's Ashes" I knew this was going to be somewhat bleak, but I had no idea just what an amazing book this would turn out to be.

Frank McCourt describes a childhood that is ridden with poverty. He made me cry, he made me angry, he made me happy and he even made me laugh. The book is harrowing, but the humour in this book is uplifting, and one cannot help but smile. My heart went out to the McCourt family, and the sorrows they had to endure.

I must admit, it was tremendously difficult to read about Frank's father, who was an alcoholic, that regularly spent every penny he had in pubs, instead of bringing home the wages to feed his (ever growing) family. It made me sigh in utter dismay, and I cannot quite get my head around an adult, who would rather put his needs first, instead of feeding his starving family.

Frank McCourt is entirely masterful with this words, and he had me hooked from the first page. I'm only sad that that the book ended, and rather unexpectedly at that.

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