Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

My first Pulitzer Prize winning book of the year! I've wanted to read this for a long time. Here's a synopsis from Barnes and Noble

Sometimes it's worth the wait. Having waited 40 years to tell his story, Frank McCourt doesn't pull any punches in his story of growing up dirt poor in Limerick, Ireland. Having emigrated to America, McCourt's family returns to Ireland after his sister dies in Brooklyn. It is there that things turn from bad to worse.
It is McCourt's contention that there is nothing worse than Irish Catholic poverty, and his book would seem to bear it out: his family moves to a row house in Limerick that is located next to the street's lavatory. However, the book is written in a lyrical style from the point of view of Frank McCourt as a boy, and it is still filled with the whimsy of growing up and the natural humor of its author.
While the book is often angry (at the Church, at his father, at his poverty, at his mother), it is also filled with forgiveness without bitterness.Covering the ages spanning three to 19, Angela's Ashes is the story of Frank McCourt's struggle to escape from poverty and a tale of Ireland still seemingly in the dark ages. Barred from the good schools because of his class, teeth falling out from malnutrition, and facing life with a shiftless alcoholic father, McCourt nevertheless survives on his wits and manages to return to America to start his life over. Again. It is a triumph of both the art of memoir writing and the author's spirit.

The story was heartbreaking at times. I had tears in my eyes quite a few times. I can't imagine going through what this family, and thousands of others in Ireland at the time, went through. I've been to Ireland twice, but haven't been to Limerick (We did go through it on bus from Galway to Cork, but didn't stop). I'd like to go there now. I think I'd look at the whole area differently after reading this book. Although most of the book was very dark, I did have to laugh at the author's perspective of things as a young boy. Also, being Catholic (and Irish!), some of what he said about the church was pretty amusing to me!

McCourt has written another book that continues where this one left off, and I'd like to read that one too.

I really liked how the story was told, and although it did get slow for me at a couple points, I thought it was really well-written, and the story definitely keeps you reading. I had to know what else might happen to this family, and now I'm interested to see what happened next.

Rated: 4/5

1 comment:

  1. this one has been on my "list" too...i'll have to make a point in checking it out!