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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir (original 1996; edition 2003)

by Frank McCourt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,637271106 (3.99)311
Member:virg144
Title:Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
Authors:Frank McCourt
Info:Scribner
Collections:Donated Aug 2010 for the Aflac Cancer Center Book Sale
Rating:***
Tags:None

Work details

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (1996)

  1. 70
    The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls (cataylor)
  2. 52
    Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (Joles)
    Joles: Written in the same style as Angela's Ashes, this deals with Frank's teaching in New York.
  3. 53
    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (nu-bibliophile)
  4. 20
    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (readerbabe1984)
  5. 20
    The Life Before Us by Romain Gary (olyvia)
    olyvia: Un reel bijoux de tendresse et d'emotion , a ne pas rater pour ceux qui ont aimé les cendres d'angela .
  6. 20
    Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor (raton-liseur)
    raton-liseur: L’Etoile des mers est un roman, il décrit l’Irlande rurale, les luttes politiques du XIXème siècle. Mais ce ne sont pas ses seules différences avec les Cendres d’Angela. C’est aussi et surtout un régal de lecture, tant par sa trame que son écriture et par son intérêt historique.… (more)
  7. 20
    The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: The Hiding Place is often compared to Angela's Ashes. The settings and subject matter are indeed very similar; however, McCourt's book has a lot of humour written between the depressing bits. And the Hiding Place is more creative and literary. Two very different approaches to poverty in the British Isles.… (more)
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  10. 00
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (KayCliff)
  11. 11
    The Dark by John McGahern (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both stories are about young men growing up in poverty in Ireland.
  12. 00
    The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein (RoxieF)
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    No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod (dpf2102)
    dpf2102: Similar stories of childhood loss.
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    Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu (shesinplainview)
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    shesinplainview: One is true, one is fiction, but both about boys growing up in inconceivable proverty.
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» See also 311 mentions

English (250)  Spanish (5)  Italian (5)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Estonian (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (270)
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
Powerful memoir. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Poor/miserable Amer-Ireland — Amer childhood — Irish Catholic

This is 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.
  christinejoseph | Mar 31, 2016 |
The writing is excellent. The author put me there. The story is rough and sad which is why I didn't like it so much. The social evils of poverty, alcoholism, and religious attitudes toward sex have huge impacts on a boy growing up. He does run into kindness, but it is a rough road.

There were several places where I was disgusted. McCourt uses words powerfully. ( )
  ajlewis2 | Feb 24, 2016 |
Extraordinary memoir of the author's growing up dirt poor in Ireland, with an absent father and a Mother struggling to make do. Best thing of its kind I've ever read. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 19, 2016 |

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone.
When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived 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.

After 30 years teaching in New York City's public schools, Frank McCourt turned to writing. [Angela's Ashes], his first book, published as a memoir, was an enormous success, selling more than 3 million copies, earning the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography and a 1996 National Book Critics Circle Award, and making him a millionaire.The opening paragraphs (quoted above) set the tone.

Malachy McCourt Sr. was born in Northern Ireland, his wife Angela (Sheehan) in Limerick. Malachy couldn't find work anywhere in Ireland because of his Northern Irish accent and heritage, so the family settled in Limerick near Angela's mother and sister.They sheltered in wretched slum dwellings, a room with one bed for two adults and four children. Ostensibly, they lived on welfare and on charity, both only grudgingly awarded. An alcoholic, Malachy would drink up whatever money came into his hands.Ultimately, the twins perished, but sons Michael and Alphonso were born.

The book abounds with tales of squalid living conditions, absence of sanitation, meager and nutrition-free meals, cheating merchants, cold and judgmental neighbors, charity with strings, cold and judgmental priests.

Education is a central theme in Angela's Ashes. Marooned in Limerick, McCourt's mam enrolls him in Leamy's National School.

There are seven masters…and they all have leather straps, canes, blackthorn sticks. They hit you with the sticks on the shoulders, the back, the legs, and, especially, the hands. If they hit you on the hands it's called a slap. They hit you if you're late, if you have a leaky nib on your pen, if you laugh, if you talk, and if you don't know things.
They hit you if you don't know why God made the world, if you don't know the patron saint of Limerick, if you can't recite the Apostles' Creed, if you can't add nineteen to forty-seven, if you can't subtract nineteen from forty-seven, if you don't know the chief towns and products of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, if you can't find Bulgaria on the wall map of the world that's blotted with spit, snot, and blobs of ink thrown by angry pupils expelled forever.
They hit you if you can't say your name in Irish, if you can't say the Hail Mary in Irish, if you can't ask for the lavatory pass in Irish.

McCourt's memories of Leamy's School brought to my mind the same sorts of goads to learning in Joyce's [Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man] and Dickens's [David Copperfield]. Spare the rod and spoil the child, indeed. From the schoolmasters of Dickens in the 1850s to those of McCourt in the 1940s, the "incentives" didn't change. Educators are very slow learners.

It's no wonder, then, that young Frankie wanted to leave school and simply get a job. Any money that got into his father's hands was spent at a pub. Money Frankie earned would go straight to his mam. So he did work while still in school: tough, physical labor. On Saturdays, he helped a nearly lame Mr.Hannon to deliver sacks of coal and peat, and Hannon delivered him some heart-felt advice: "School, Frankie, school. The books, the books, the books. Get out of Limerick before your legs rot and your mind collapses entirely."

Later on, Frank was beguiled by boys he saw delivering telegrams, bicycling around Limerick, earning money, occasionally getting tips from message recipients. Leamy's head master. Mr. O'Halloran, tries to keep him in school:

[Mrs. McCourt] comes to see him O'Halloran] and he talks to her in the hallway. He tells her that her son Frank must continue school. He must not fall into the messenger boy trap. That leads nowhere. Take him up to the Christian Brothers, tell them I sent you, tell them he is a bright boy and ought to be going to secondary school and beyond that, university.
…She knocks on the door at the Christian Brothers and says she wants to see the superior, Brother Murray. He comes to the door, looks at my mother and me and says, What?
Mam says, This is my son, Frank. Mr. O'Halloran at Leamy's says he's bright and would there be any chance of getting him in here for secondary school?
We don't have room for him, says Brother Murray and closes the door in our faces.

So much for an Irish education.

The success of the book spawned harsh criticism. McCourt's recollections were questioned and disputed. The McCourts were never all that poor, the conditions were never that squalid, the neighbors never that cruel. McCourt's response? "I told my own story. I wrote about my situation, my family, my parents, that's what I experienced and what I felt."

This an excellent book, well-written, involving, ultimately rewarding.
  weird_O | Feb 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
A spunky, bittersweet memoir.
added by Shortride | editTime, John Elson (Sep 23, 1996)
 
Frank McCourt waited more than four decades to tell the story of his childhood, and it's been well worth the wait. With ''Angela's Ashes,'' he has [written] a book that redeems the pain of his early years with wit and compassion and grace. He has written a book that stands with ''The Liars Club'' by Mary Karr and Andre Aciman's ''Out of Egypt'' as a classic modern memoir.
 
For the most part, [McCourt's] style is that of an Irish-American raconteur, honorably voluble and engaging. He is aware of his charm but doesn't disgracefully linger upon it. Induced by potent circumstances, he has told his story, and memorable it is.
 
This memoir is an instant classic of the genre -- all the more remarkable for being the 66-year-old McCourt's first book.
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCourt, Frankprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowohlt, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wissen, Driek vanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
This book is dedicated to my brothers,
Malachy, Michael, Alphonsus.
I learn from you, I admire you and I love you.
First words
My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.
Quotations
Shakespeare is like mashed potatoes, you can never get enough of him.
When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived it 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.
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Book description
Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes is an unusual immigrant story, told from the view of the person the author was at a particular stage in his life.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 068484267X, Paperback)

Frank McCourt's haunting memoir takes on new life when the author reads from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Recounting scenes from his childhood in New York City and Limerick, Ireland, McCourt paints a brutal yet poignant picture of his early days when there was rarely enough food on the table, and boots and coats were a luxury. In a melodic Irish voice that often lends a gentle humor to the unimaginable, the author remembers his wayward yet adoring father who was forever drinking what little money the family had. He recounts the painful loss of his siblings to avoidable sickness and hunger, a proud mother reduced to begging for charity, and the stench of the sewage-strewn streets that ran outside the front door. As McCourt approaches adolescence, he discovers the shame of poverty and the beauty of Shakespeare, the mystery of sex and the unforgiving power of the Irish Catholic Church. This powerful and heart-rending testament to the resiliency and determination of youth is populated with memorable characters and moments, and McCourt's interpretation of the narrative and the voices it contains will leave listeners laughing through their tears.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:58 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

"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.… (more)

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» see all 15 descriptions

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