Jun 27, 2011

Angela's Ashes

by Frank McCourt

Memoir of a boy growing up in Ireland. Frank McCourt was born in America but his family moved back to Ireland when he was very small. They were extremely poor and most of the time lived on public assistance. Situation not made any better by the fact that their father was an alcoholic; he could rarely keep a job, spent any money he earned in the pubs and when his mother got money from charities or the dole, he first chastised her for begging and then promptly spent that money on drink, too. Altogether a miserable character. So the family was usually hungry, living in awful conditions, the kids frequently sick. The author himself scraped through some frightening illnesses, and he lost several siblings to illness, some as infants. The entire time I was reading I kept thinking of his mother, how her heart must have ached to loose her children. She would have sought out a job herself but the neighbors saw that as shameful, that a woman would have to work when she had an able-bodied husband.

Throughout the story Frank talks about how the Catholic church infused his life; at first it was all mysterious as most priests or his parents refused to explain things to him. Later he figured a few things out, but by then had grow calloused as well. He tells of schools where kids are made fun or of beaten by their teachers, of desperately trying to find a job, of a growing fascination with girls and their mysteries when he hit puberty, and of finally saving up enough money to emigrate to America himself, in search of a better life. The ending kind of fizzled for me, though. I watched him through the pages struggle and struggle and finally get to the place of his dreams simply to carouse at a party right off the boat and declare America a great place. I was kind of expecting more, at that point...

It wasn't until I finished Angela's Ashes that I realized I've actually read it before. I don't know if that speaks well or poor of it, that I had completely forgotten most of the details. I knew I had opened it once a year or so ago, but thought I'd quit a little ways in, as I recalled quite a bit of the beginning, but all the middle felt new to me. Unless I skipped to the end? but I usually don't do that. Either way, I'm glad to say that I enjoyed it much more this time around.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 426 pages, 1996

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1 comment:

Christina said...

I too was expecting more at the end. I've wanted to pick up 'Tis for a while now because I've been told it finishes off his story, but I cannot seem to find my copy. Must have gotten lost in the move.