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Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela's Ashes (1996)

by Frank McCourt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Frank McCourt’s memoirs (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
19,325305133 (4)366
"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)
  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. 20
    The Hiding Place: A Novel 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)
  4. 53
    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Headinherbooks_27)
  5. 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)
  6. 20
    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (readerbabe1984)
  7. 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 .
  8. 10
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (TomWaitsTables)
  9. 00
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (caflores)
  10. 00
    44: Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan (Fliss88)
  11. 00
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (KayCliff)
  12. 11
    The Dark by John McGahern (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both stories are about young men growing up in poverty in Ireland.
  13. 00
    The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein (RoxieF)
  14. 00
    No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod (dpf2102)
    dpf2102: Similar stories of childhood loss.
  15. 01
    All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg (BookshelfMonstrosity)

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» See also 366 mentions

English (277)  Spanish (8)  Italian (5)  Dutch (4)  French (2)  German (2)  Finnish (2)  Estonian (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (303)
Showing 1-5 of 277 (next | show all)
the abject poverty in this book is pretty stunning. i'm not even really sure how he manages to write about something so stark and hard in a way that makes it readable and even fast-paced, although nothing actually of note happens. it's year after year of their father drinking the welfare money and the family suffering through starvation and illness and mostly unable to do more or get more help. and yet it isn't "just" a poverty story, at all. it was particularly tough to read about the structure of their society and how much harder that makes it to get help. the way they talk to you and make you talk to them, in the aide office and in the catholic school. the way they make you feel bad (and like you're going to hell, which for them was a scary thing to imagine) for doing anything that children being children do; it's a terrible way to control people...it's abuse, frankly. this seemed worse to me than other stories i've heard about growing up catholic. maybe it was because they were in limerick, ireland, or maybe i'm older, or maybe the story is actually worse. either way, this was a church and its representatives abusing an entire town of people. (verbally, emotionally, probably physically.

but really it's his story of poverty that hits so hard and that i expect stays with people. he's describing the struggles of his family as he saw them as a child, not looking back as an adult on how he managed to survive it. it's all happening to a child as he explains the situation to us. he talks about the births and deaths of his young siblings as a child would, not in the language but in the ideas. seeing his father through his eyes initially helped me to have compassion for him, but eventually i couldn't bring myself to feel for a man who - even through the lens of addiction as a disease - could drink away every bit of help given to his family, while they literally starved to death or nearly froze, or were constantly ill.

there are two things that i keep coming back to, though. the first is the part where frankie is older and working his job as a telegraph boy, and he goes to lanes that are even worse off than where he lived. instead of one hole for the street to use as a lavatory (right outside his window - so that for parts of the year that room overflowed with waste) this street has no lavatory and the people just dump their waste in a rivet in the street, so the street runs with waste all the time. it seems there is no shortage of examples of the poverty these people lived through. it also felt like a blow to read a couple of times, in case the first time or two didn't really penetrate, how the people were so grateful for hitler and the german front, because the war provided an opportunity to make some wages, and actually eat food for a change. they felt hitler was their only chance to live, and they wanted the war to go on forever because how would they eat again without him?

it's not lyrically or beautifully written, and yet the writing is something special. a book this full of desperation and misery shouldn't be this easy to read. but it is also one of hope, as we know he makes it out and survives, and we want to know how, and if his family follows him to america or if he takes care of his brothers after his mother presumably (from the title) dies. we don't get all the answers - i guess i'll have to read the following memoirs to find out - but we are compelled to keep reading. it's really not as hard as it should be with a story this bleak and grim, which says something about the author and his writing. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | May 7, 2020 |
813.54 MCC
  alessandragg | Apr 16, 2020 |
Summary Paragraph:

The book, "Angela's Ashes", is a true story about Frank McCourt's childhood living in the slums of Limerick. The setting of the book starts in New York City, during the Great Depression. Frank is born in the USA where he has four siblings, a little brother, two twin brothers, and a baby sister. Malachy, the father, is an alcoholic and struggles to keep an offered job. His mom seeks support from their Jewish neighbors for food and medical supplies. The baby sister soon dies and Angela, Mrs. McCourt, falls into a deep depression and Frank's father starts to drink recklessly. Things become so bad for the family that they have to move back to Ireland and seek help from Angela's mother. Grandma is not happy to see Angela and her family. But she helped them find a place in Limerick. The move doesn't help their financial problem as Frank's dad continues to lose job after job. The twin brothers died shortly after getting pneumonia. Things keep spiralling downward as their situation becomes dreadful. The family must sleep on one mattress with fleas crawling in it and their house floods so they must move upstairs. Angela soon gives birth to two new baby boys. Frank and his little brother start attending school where they are made fun of for being "yanks". Despite this Frank prospers to be one of the brightest kids in school. At the age of of ten Frank falls ill to typhoid fever and is hospitalized. He meets a girl there and she introduces him to Shakespeare, which inspires him. Shortly after Frank is released from the hospital his father goes to England to do factory work during World War ll. While Mr. McCourt is not sending back wages to support his family, Angela starts begging and seeking public support for food. Frank has to start steeling food from richer families to support his own family. But then Frank starts to find work doing little jobs for his neighbors, close friends, or family. Eventually, the family gets evicted from their house because Angela burned down a wall for fuel. They move in with Laman Griffin who treats Frank so horribly that he must move in with Uncle Ab. Frank soon meets a girl named Teresa and falls in love with her, but she soon dies. Frank dreams of going back to America and starts saving up wages. He then buys a ticket to America and ends up in Albany, NY. At the end of the book, he meets an American woman and the world seems brighter.

Opinion paragraph:

The book, "Angela's Ashes", is a look into the hardships of poverty during the Great Depression. It shows you the reality and the hard subjects of what the Great Depression was really like. The McCourt's go through many obstacles and hard times, and at some points I found it hard to even continue reading the book. I love how the author puts humor into the book as to make it more readable and less depressing. This book has many ups and downs, as well as a good laugh and cry. I find it amazing how Frank survived all of these hardships and was able to live to tell it. In conclusion, this book is truly amazing and it really show and brings you into what life was like during the Great Depression. ( )
  KEdwards.ELA4 | Mar 25, 2020 |
A memoir mixed with humor and heart wrenching events about an Irish boy born during the Great Depression as he details his life mixed with poverty, tragedy, Catholic religion, and hope. It is a wonderfully, written book that I had difficulty putting down. It is very depressing, but important for somebody to read for a personal look at the time period. Frank does a good job of adding in humor to keep it light hearted enough. There are punctuation and paragraph structuring that makes the book difficult to read though. ( )
  renbedell | Dec 19, 2019 |
This was a more than decent memoir of Frank McCourt's childhood days in New York, but then mostly in Limerick, Ireland. There is deep poverty, loss, and hardship here. But it is the tale of a family bonded together firmly, for better or worse, by the roots that sustain the family unit and we gain glimpses into all members of the family and their personalities- with McCourt serving as narrator and primary character and instigator. Some of the novel goes into stream of consciousness type language that shows his skill at using prose to his advantage to portray the scenes that he describes. Overall, a solid autobiography and memoir. Not perfect, mind you, but exemplary.

3.75 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Oct 28, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 277 (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 (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCourt, Frankprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KjellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowohlt, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wissen, Driek vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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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