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19 Reviews
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully uplifting biography and history of Dublin!
I picked up "A Long Way From Penny Apples" while traveling in Ireland in June, 2004, but didn't get a chance to read it until now. I started reading on Thanksgiving evening and couldn't put it down until I finished it today. The hardbound book spent 14 weeks on the UK bestseller Top Ten list, with 5 weeks at number two, so I don't understand the caustic reviews offered...
Published on November 28, 2004 by Lynmaire

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why the comparison?
I really don't know why Bill Cullen felt the need to deride Angels's Ashes when writing his own book.
I don't see a whole lot of similarity between the two.
I found the style of Penny Apples to be somewhat disjointed and it is not a book that flows smoothly. The third person narrative takes some getting used to in an autobiography.
I began to feel somewhat...
Published on July 8, 2003 by Grant Naylor


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully uplifting biography and history of Dublin!, November 28, 2004
By 
Lynmaire (Marietta, GA, USA) - See all my reviews
I picked up "A Long Way From Penny Apples" while traveling in Ireland in June, 2004, but didn't get a chance to read it until now. I started reading on Thanksgiving evening and couldn't put it down until I finished it today. The hardbound book spent 14 weeks on the UK bestseller Top Ten list, with 5 weeks at number two, so I don't understand the caustic reviews offered here on Amazon. Heavens, if the Brits, who usually distain anything coming out of Ireland, have overwhelmingly found this book to be excellent then surely this outstanding book merits readership in the U.S. too.

Bill Cullen wrote the book as a tribute to his parents and grandmother, not as an ego booster for his own esteem. He was spurred on to write the book after reading Frank McCourt's words that there was, in effect, nothing more miserable than a poor Irish childhood. Cullen had a poor Irish childhood that he viewed as anything but miserable.

Mr. Cullen grew up in the poorest tenements of Dublin with 12 siblings. His family was certainly bereft of even the most basic needs for food and decent shelter, but flush with wise and spirited discipline from his loving parents and maternal grandmother. It was the positive, uplifting attitude of his family that drove Mr. Cullen's ambitions to become the very wealthy man he is today. He's written a true rags-to-riches story, giving most of the credit not to himself, but to the upbringing his family provided. All of the proceeds of the book will go to a youth charity in Ireland, and in fact Bill has promised $1 million to the charity whether or not the book raises that much money. Not exactly the actions of the type of person pictured in the previous reviews.

I certainly learned much from the depictions of a Dublin era long gone, but the optimistic tone of the book was most inspirational and left me with a smile on my face. My own grown children will receive copies of this book for Christmas this year, in memory of my Irish father and grandmother who would have bent their ear with the same wise teachings if they were still alive.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why the comparison?, July 8, 2003
I really don't know why Bill Cullen felt the need to deride Angels's Ashes when writing his own book.
I don't see a whole lot of similarity between the two.
I found the style of Penny Apples to be somewhat disjointed and it is not a book that flows smoothly. The third person narrative takes some getting used to in an autobiography.
I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable reading the constant litany of what a wonderful, honest, upright person Bill considers himself to be. He even vindicates himself for stealing biscuits as a child by not being able to eat them!
Certainly he has made some monumental achievements in his business career, but intimate and personal matters (his first communion, the death of siblings, his divorce) barely rate a mention.
Bill Cullen says that he found Angela's Ashes to be depressing and that he has happy memories of a similar poor childhood. But how similar was it? Bill's father was always home, they had influential friends who helped them obtain housing and I sincerely doubt that Angela McCourt had 50 pounds tucked away in a cupboard to buy pigs or 500 pounds under a rug for mortgage repayments.
By all means read this book, but make sure you read Angela's Ashes as well for a balanced picture.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't care for it in the least., March 27, 2003
By A Customer
I found it odd to read an autobiography written in the third person. Not sure why the author did this - all I can figure is that there was so much boasting that he would have felt odd stating, "I, I, I" as much as he would have had to if written in the fist person. I was not surprised to find out the author divorced his first wife and married a former model - that's just the type of guy I imagined him to be after reading all the bravado in the book. I grew tired of all the bragging by the end - "ok, ok, you're really smart, I get it" was pretty much my sentiment as I struggled to get through this.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a Long Way From Penny Apples, March 5, 2003
By A Customer
This book is essential for anyone who wants inspiration to succeed in life. Better than any of the more famous business authors, Bill Cullen succeeds in making this book witty and humorous, interesting while tugging at all your emotions, he succeeds in providing entertainment throughout. What is also interesting is his account of the role that strong women played in shaping his personality, his life and his determination to succeed from extremely poor and humble beginnings. Bill Cullen also shows that while he was extremely lucky in life this was largely due to his determination and drive to keep learning and keep trying, never giving up because as the great golfer, Gary Player, used to say "The more I practice, the luckier I get!".
Bill Cullen's book can stand for all nationalities as well as all racial and ethnic groups and should be an inspiration for everyone. The beauty about htis book is that the proceeds of the book are selflessly going to charity!!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Indecision, September 25, 2003
By 
Madam Librarian (Potomac, Maryland) - See all my reviews
I felt that author Bill Cullen could not make up his mind about what kind of book he was writing. In places it's a biography, toward the end it's a self-promotion, in the middle it's about marketing and bootstraps.
It's clear that the author is not a professional writer, as the prose is awkward, inconsistent, repetitive, and simplistic. I was also put off by the fact that he prefaced the book by declaring it to be a kind of Anti Angela's Ashes. While Angela's Ashes was unrelenting in its bleakness and hopelessness and despair, it was, unlike this book, masterfully written. Furthermore, who on earth is in a position to deny Frank McCourt his recollection of his experience? I don't think that Frank McCourt was making generalizations about everyone who is born Irish, poor, and Catholic -- that was not the reason he wrote his book. To think so is to miss out on the power of McCourt's story, his ability with the written word, and the subtleties of his humor.
Regardless of the different kinds of childhood they wrote about, McCourt's telling was so much more sophisticated and finessed than Cullen's. Cullen's story just plodded along, pounding into the ground his themes of faith, prudence, hard work, and rewards.
The only reason I kept plowing through it is because my mother is from Ireland, and so I enjoy reading books about life in Ireland in the first half of the 20th century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A UNIQUE CELEBRATION!, March 22, 2003
I came to this book thinking it was another Angela's Ashes because reviewers have put it there. Well, it is not, it is better. This book is a celebration of life, not a thrashing of it. The author is not using the book as a kind of therapy to vend this anger; instead we are treated to a wonderful world of love and affection and yes, deprivation. They are poor but they don't sit and around and complain and then look back in anger. They cope and in coping the children learn how to be responsible adults.
The affection and love that the family members have for each is so moving to read about. This book celebrates the family, celebrates people and celebrates life. The loss of a child is deeply felt but so also is the arrival of a new life.
However, having said that the book drags a bit and the author seems very bent on putting his 'genius' forward. The early part is better than the second half.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Angela's Ashes, But Bits of Good Irish Storytelling, February 11, 2006
This review is from: It's a Long Way from Penny Apples (Paperback)
Somewhat stiffly written, the book offers insight into a closely knit Catholic family struggling against poverty in Ireland. The author's success in business is commendable and he gives credit here to those who helped him along the way.

At times, it seems a bit too self-congratulatory, but worthwhile reading for anyone with Irish roots.

His childhood memories are a bit more gripping than his adult years. I particularly enjoyed the story where he bought unsaleable plastic dolls and the family decorated them, making a good profit selling them on the street as Marilyn Monroe dolls.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight up No Nonsense Story, March 29, 2006
If you knew Liam personally, you'd have a bit more insight into the personality that wrote this book. He tells a great story, and I'm certain that most of its true :-)

I picked up a copy in Dublin last year at a book signing for his second book "Golden Apples." He even bought me a pint after the book signing. I know his family as well, and there are things in this book that give some intersting insight into the path behind them.

Its written in a straight up no fluff no nonsense kind of way, and thats the way Liam is.

Seosamh
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God It's not Angela's Ashes!, March 29, 2006
By 
K. Hurst (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If I wanted to read another depressing Irish Childhood story, I'd have re-read Angela's Ashes! (Not to diaparage Angela's Ashes in any way.) I completely enjoyed the story of Liam's family, his upbringing and the hard work necessary to survive in Ireland in those times. I especially enjoyed Mother Darcy. Whether she actually knew Aloyisius Hitler or not isn't the point, it's all in the storytelling.

To compare Penny Apples to Angela's Ashes is the old "Apples to Oranges." (Sorry about the pun!) Appreciate the story on it's own merits.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read!, February 10, 2003
By 
"shamrockingirlie" (New Windsor, NY United States) - See all my reviews
I just got this book this weekend (got an advance copy to review) and I already finished it. I could not put it down. All the reviews compare it to Angela's Ashes. Both excellent books, but Mr. Cullen's book shows the optimistic side of growing up in Dublin. Sure, his family was poor and they lived in a couple rooms with four or five kids crammed into a bed, but they worked together to get through whatever life threw them and they always were aware of the fact that there were people worse off than them. It's an inspiring rags -to-riches tale, and there's also a lot of history thrown in, mainly through conversations that the main character has with his grandmother. A great book for anyone into their Irish heritage - you get a real feel for what your ancestors experienced. Mr. Cullen grew up in the Summerhill tenements in Dublin and ended up owning the largest Ford dealership in Ireland and now owns a multimillion dollar auto company. This book truly shows that the old adage is true - you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it. Buy this book, you will NOT be sorry!!
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It's a Long Way from Penny Apples
It's a Long Way from Penny Apples by Bill Cullen (Paperback - February 1, 2004)
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