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Angela's Ashes Hardcover – September 5, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood," writes Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes. "Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." Welcome, then, to the pinnacle of the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. Born in Brooklyn in 1930 to recent Irish immigrants Malachy and Angela McCourt, Frank grew up in Limerick after his parents returned to Ireland because of poor prospects in America. It turns out that prospects weren't so great back in the old country either--not with Malachy for a father. A chronically unemployed and nearly unemployable alcoholic, he appears to be the model on which many of our more insulting cliches about drunken Irish manhood are based. Mix in abject poverty and frequent death and illness and you have all the makings of a truly difficult early life. Fortunately, in McCourt's able hands it also has all the makings for a compelling memoir.

From School Library Journal

YA. Despite impoverishing his family because of his alcoholism, McCourt's father passed on to his son a gift for superb storytelling. He told him about the great Irish heroes, the old days in Ireland, the people in their Limerick neighborhood, and the world beyond their shores. McCourt writes in the voice of the child?with no self-pity or review of events?and just retells the tales. He recounts his desperately poor early years, living on public assistance and losing three siblings, but manages to make the book funny and uplifting. Stories of trying on his parents' false teeth and his adventures as a post-office delivery boy will have readers laughing out loud. Young people will recognize the truth in these compelling tales; the emotions expressed; the descriptions of teachers, relatives, neighbors; and the casual cruelty adults show toward children. Readers will enjoy the humor and the music in the language. A vivid, wonderfully readable memoir.?Patricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (September 5, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684874350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684874357
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,597 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, grew up in Limerick, Ireland, and returned to America in 1949. For thirty years he taught in New York City high schools. His first book, "Angela's Ashes," won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Award. In 2006, he won the prestigious Ellis Island Family Heritage Award for Exemplary Service in the Field of the Arts and the United Federation of Teachers John Dewey Award for Excellence in Education.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 160 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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124 of 131 people found the following review helpful By SUPPORT THE ASPCA. on July 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
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.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By riverlady on April 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
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.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Gary Ragaglia on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
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.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
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.
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