Book Thoughts: Angela’s Ashes by 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 does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story.

Perhaps it is a story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing shoes repaired with tires, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner, and searching the pubs for his father, 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

Let me start off by telling all of you I was required to read this for my AP English & Lit class. One of my blog readers, Rachel, requested I review this book since she has to read this later on in the year. Truthfully, I find that I enjoy books less because I am required to read them for school. Angela’s Ashes, though, is a nice read.

I wasn’t sure how entertaining this book would be since it is a memoir, but McCourt surprised me with writing that makes you believe you are reading the words of a child. It felt like he had written it then and there instead of retelling his life. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had written this all in a journal at the time and just published the words as an adult. I found the book to be entertaining and interesting to read. It wasn’t like I needed to know what happened; I was just curious.

Another thing I enjoyed was the fact that I could catch up with his slang. The book is easy to follow so you don’t need to be afraid of getting lost…Well, maybe except for people’s names here and there.

Yes, there were a few parts of the novel when I found my mind wandering from the pages. I enjoyed the story he had to tell but overall the novel felt long. It is reasonably sized but I never thought I would get to the end. I still am also not sure why it is titled Angela’s Ashes. I thought the title would make more sense after I read the book, but that didn’t happen…

I approve of this school book. It’s truthful and realistic. My advice to you (if you are a student that has to read this book) is to take time to focus while reading the book. It’s a nice choice.


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