139 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope Inspiring
Angela's Ashes is a book so filled with remorse and sadness, it's amazing that the reader somehow finds themself completely and joyfully satisfied. The novel revolves around the penniless childhood of Frank McCourt and begins in America with four-year-old Frank and his three year-old brother Malachy, who bears the same name as his father, and the infant twins, Eugene and...
Published on September 20, 2000
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Angela's Ashes
Even at the most difficult of times, there is always hope for better to come. The narrator of the story, Frank McCourt, conveys this throughout his acclaimed memoir Angela's Ashes. Born in Depression-era Brooklyn and raised in Limerick, Ireland, Frank lived in poverty throughout most of his life. His mother, Angela, would sing to her children at night, giving them hope...
Published on May 9, 2006 by L. Haub-vonach
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139 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope Inspiring,
By A Customer
Angela's Ashes is a book so filled with remorse and sadness, it's amazing that the reader somehow finds themself completely and joyfully satisfied. The novel revolves around the penniless childhood of Frank McCourt and begins in America with four-year-old Frank and his three year-old brother Malachy, who bears the same name as his father, and the infant twins, Eugene and Oliver, and the memories of the baby Margaret, "already dead and gone." Your heart goes out to the poor family, blessed with a loving mother, Angela, and yet cursed with a father who means well, but is constantly drunk or yearning for the "pint," as they call it. Early in his life, McCourt's family moves to Ireland, with help from his aunts and grandmother. Unfortunately, money is not easily found in Ireland either, and the McCourt family migrates from home to home, barely surviving on the few shillings Malachy McCourt doesn't spend at the local pub. The McCourts experience tragedy upon tragedy. His physical romance with a young lady named Theresa Carmody sick with consumption, his unfortunate habit to "interfere with himself," and the sad moment when in a drunken stupor on his first pint he strikes his own mother causes Frank to fear he is doomed to an eternity in hell. Unbelievably, despite all of the terrible things that happen in Frank's childhood, there are moments described in the book that give the reader a complete sense of joy and hope. I immensely enjoyed this memoir and would recommend it to any reader. I was especially enamored of the style of writing in which Frank McCourt chose to write. The words seemed as if they gently tumbled directly out of the mouth of the seven-year-old Frankie, or mischievously flew from Frank as an thirteen-year-old "working man." This novel was exquisitely written and is a jewel to read, as well as a treasure to remember.
118 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT. DEEP, SAD, WELL DONE.,
The author begins his memoir with the voice of a narrator: describing people, events, etc. But, from the first chapter he slowly transitions into a man remembering & than goes back to when he was a boy. The slideshow of imagery & the depth of details made this a great read, despite the often brutal sadness of the story.
The innocence of a young boy of say 8 or 9 is experienced here like in no other book I have read. The young boy finds himself talking with "the angel of the seventh step," & wishing to hear stories of his mythical hero "Cuchulain." When the boy learns something for the first time, so does the reader. While he ages, his vocabulary grows as does his views of the world around him which starts to make more sense to him, no matter how unsettling.
The reader feels Frankie's angst when his alcoholic father comes home drunk after drinking his paycheck away. The descriptions of the strict Catholic school alone where he was not allowed to even ask a question in class made it seem more like a prison than a place to seek "knowledge & comfort." The living conditions in the Limerick of the 1930's-40's Ireland were truly on a third world level. Their home would flood in Winter, & the many family homes they lived in when they could not afford their rent are gut wrenchingly vivid.
The most poignant emotions are from Frankie's mother Angela.
The reader can feel her desperation & frustration with her useless husband, who often failed to keep a job because of his boozing.
Her anguish that she could not clothe or feed her sons, & her other children who were "dead & gone," & her feelings of shame that she had to borrow & beg in order to keep her family alive leap off the pages.
The dialogue & story captures the imagination, one can feel the chill of damp air & the sickness it brings. This book has it all, the sorrow, heartache, want, humor, & slivers of hope.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendent Writing,
I have recently re-read Angela's Ashes for a class assignment in which I had to compare a book with the film version of the same story, and I was again blown away by the beauty of this book. It is a testament to Frank McCourt's enormous talent that he is able to blend such sad situations with such delightful humor. He is masterful in the way he narrates the story from the point-of-view of a child, with his outlook and insights growing as the character (Frank himself) matures, similar to the approach that Dickens used in "David Copperfield."
"Angela's Ashes" is a modern-day classic - one that I'm sure I will re-read every few years, just to hear the magical and shimmering prose in my ears again and again.
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PHEW!,
What a ride! You'll laugh, cry, exhilarate, and despair-all on the same page. Trapped in a childhood of extreme poverty in Limerick, Ireland, Frank McCourt not only survives but thoroughly conquers. In the depths of even this much misery, however, there are small mercies and kindnesses and they are not lost on him. This is what gives the book it's humanity-the ability to withstand horrific circumstances through humor, determination, and forgiveness-and triumph with soul intact. And the people! They seem more alive in ink than most of us seem in flesh.
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angela's Ashes,
This has to be one of the best books I've read in a LONG time. It was refreshing to find a book that could keep my wandering mind and High School attention span in check. The trials of the Mc Court family were nothing to laugh at but I often found myself trying very hard to surppres laughter while reading in a classroom where you could easily hear a pin drop. The humerous sections were not based around the events that were taking place, but more around how Frank, as a child, viewed what was going on. The McCourt children knew very little of life and death. What they did know was taught to them by their drunken father and manic depressive mother. Frank seemed to have a slight grasp on the idea that once his younger siblings died he would never see them again, yet he still had many innocent questions. At a very young age Frank was questioning how death happened. He saw a dog get hit by a car and bleed to death. Later on he made another child bleed on the playground. Thinking that blood was death after seeing the dog die from it, Frank feared that he had killed his friend when in all actuality it was a minor injury. Later on in the novel when others take ill and die Frank questions why there was no blood and yet they died. The lack of knowledge and simple questions that Frank had as a child added a great deal to the novel. It was almost depressing when I realized that he would never get those questions answered and just keep wondering. While reading I found myself often forgetting that this was a true story and wondering how an author could come up with a plot line with this many twists and turns. All in all I LOVED this book. It earned each and every one of the five stars not only because it kept my attention for longer than humanly possibly, but because of the way McCourt took tragic events and somehow made the reader believe that for a split second something comical was going on.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down,
I avoided this book for two reasons. The hype. More often than not I am disappointed by highly-hyped books and movies. And, I thought it would depress and exhaust me. But as with Betty Smith's A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, you become so engrossed with the characters that you aren't weighed down by the crushing poverty. It almost seems an afterthought, a tiny detail, yet it is what forms the characters. Both of these books, while written 60 years apart, are written beautifully and skillfully.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Angela's Ashes,
Even at the most difficult of times, there is always hope for better to come. The narrator of the story, Frank McCourt, conveys this throughout his acclaimed memoir Angela's Ashes. Born in Depression-era Brooklyn and raised in Limerick, Ireland, Frank lived in poverty throughout most of his life. His mother, Angela, would sing to her children at night, giving them hope that one day there would be enough food and happiness for everyone, even though there was barely any hope left for herself. It is the coming-of-age story of Frank McCourt as he grows from an impoverished childhood to a maturity at the age of nineteen, when he is able to plan his own course in life. Before the age of ten, Frank is a witness to the death of his sister and two brothers. His father does not work much and when he does, he spends all of his earnings drinking at the local pub. He also is fond of telling stories and reminding the children that they hopefully will die for Ireland. Through all of the difficult times he had to endure, he grows spiritually, morally and intellectually. His family remains strong in spirit even through the poverty, near starvation and harassment.
This wonderfully written and deeply moving memoir is a story that changes your perspective and captivates your heart. It is narrated in the first person and is told in the present tense. This kind of immediacy centers on the reality of the child's experiences and avoids the impression, as the past tense might, that the story is being reflected upon by an adult on his childhood. The language used throughout the memoir is informal and common. Regional, Irish phrases, and vulgar expressions are used often to convey the way people really talked during the author's childhood in Limerick. Both tears and smiles are brought together as close as they be in this style of writing. An example of type of language used: "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. My brothers are dead and my sister is dead and I wonder if they died for Ireland or the Faith. Dad says they were too young to die for anything. Mam says it was disease and starvation and him never having a job. Dad says: `Och, Angela,' puts on his cap and goes for a long walk" (113). The theme of poverty is persistent throughout the memoir. To the people in Limerick, poverty is accepted as a fact of life; there is nothing much to help the poor out of their misery.
The title of the memoir indicates the ashes that fall from Angela's cigarettes and those in the fireplace that she continuously stares at blankly. Her ashes represent her crumbling hopes of raising a healthy family with a supportive husband. These dreams are withering and have almost died so that all she is left with are the smoldering ashes from the fire that provides them warmth. Frank grows to learn that he must take on the responsibility of keeping his own dreams alive in the end. At the end of the book, he leaves his broken family behind in order to make himself whole again in America.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank gets the nickel.,
Charles Dickens once said, "In the little world in which children have their existence, whoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only a small injustice the child can be exposed to; but the child is small; and its world is small." Angela's Ashes amounts to a brilliant recollection of childhood injustice which is indeed... LARGE! As I read the book, I was appalled at the depth of poverty that Frank McCourt and his family endured, and yet, I can't count the number of times I actually laughed out loud at the "way" in which the story is told. I've never read anything so simultaneously light and weighty. McCourt is witty, and is always in character, and that character is the child who was an eye-witness to every event. (An intriguing, fiercely narrative writing style is consistent throughout the book. ie., there are never any quotation marks).
The story is a powerfully moving disclosure of the perils of alcoholism. If it wasn't for the fact that Frank's father could not walk PAST a pub, the family would not have been so destitute. What little money Malachy McCourt earns is forever spent on alcohol, and the amazing thing is that it is spent shamelessly. Mother and children practically starve while dad staggers home in a drunken stupor night after night. Frank says of his father's false promises... "He'll give us a nickel for ice cream if we promise to die for Ireland and we promise but we never get the nickel." Injustice.
In my opinion, the redeeming majesty of this memoir is that through it we learn a wondrous fact... that shamelessness, irresponsibility, and stupidity do not necessarily have to be handed down to the next generation. Frank broke the mold, and chose self-awareness as his aspiration. I believe that the crucial turning point in his life came when, at the age of eleven he was convalescing at a hospital and came to the conclusion that "it's lovely to know the world can't interfere with the inside of your head." As readers of Angela's Ashes, we become the grateful recipients of this precocious revelation.
Mr. McCourt has received much recognition for his book, and all of it is deserved. I have no idea what he has gained monetarily from its publication, but somehow I think it's a bit more than his aforesaid promised nickel. Way to go. You are an inspiration to the world.
67 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angela's Ashes,
Angela's Ashes, Frank's McCourt's New York Times Best Selling Memoir, centers on the cold, hard life of a poor Irish Catholic family. Frank McCourt, the oldest child, tells the story of his family in Ireland and their unfortunate poverty and depression. The father is a mean, cold-hearted man who constantly spends his and his children's money on liquor for himself. The mother, Angela, is without a doubt the backbone of the family; she makes sure they eat and worries about the rent and the well-being of her children. Throughout the story Angela teaches her children the importance of pride and dignity. The ill-starred family is continually struck with the death of very young family members. Even though several children die from starvation and cold before the age of five, McCourt manages to portray these tragedies and shows the family's ability to move on with life. Although the memoir, in general, is an incredibly sad one, the humor of McCourt's style makes the book bearable. Because McCourt's writing style is so descriptive, the reader is able to feel the families sorrow and unhappiness, and we see the world in which they live. Unfortunately, Angela's Ashes did not shine through in the recent holiday film released by Paramount. The film showed the importance of McCourt's humor by not incorporating it into the adaptation. Without this humor, the film was dark, sad, ugly and unbearable. The book on the other hand, may be sad, but is at the same time uplifting.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best books ever!,
This is one of the best books I have ever read!
Frank McCourt writes about his youth growing up in NYC and Ireland. He lives in near desperate conditions because of a father who could not keep a job and could not resist "the drink." Yet young McCourt does not quite despair because of the squalor in which he is living. He finds humor in his daily life, which he describes in much incredibly fascinating and delightful detail. This book follows him through the addition of brothers and a sister to his family, followed by the sad early death of too many of them, the sacrifices of dignity his mother makes to maintain a home and food and clothing, his adventures with local kids, mishaps at school, the threat of eternal damnation he feels for all of the naughty things he does, a number of jobs to help aid his family upon the departure of an alcohol-enslaved father, and finally his own departure to embark upon a life of his own.
Frank McCourt's young outlook on life is so unique and enjoyable, you will be delighted by his ever hopeful perspective. The writing is hilarious. You will chuckle at even the little things, including how he refers, in his Irish way, to things as "some class of..." this or that, and his dirty boy stuff as "interferring with himself" or "the excitement." Frank McCourt shares with his readers an honest, detailed, and humorous memoir of his boyhood.
I think everyone should read this book. I highly recommend it.
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Angela's Ashes (AUDIO CASSETTE) by Frank McCourt (Audio Cassette - October 1, 1997)