Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

When this book first came out in hardcover, it was recommended to me very strongly by someone whose opinion I trusted. I read the first 20 pages, and got so depressed I wanted to kill myself! I put it down and swore never to read it. Even when my best friend forced a copy of it on me 10 years ago. But several years ago, I listened to Teacher Man on audio, and it was great. So I thought that might be the solution for me with Angela's Ashes. Teacher Man was so funny - and I could tell that a large part of that was the way Frank McCourt read the book. He has a terrific voice for these, really expressive and emphatic.

I am so glad I finally listened to this! I just downloaded the audio of 'Tis, so finish off the trilogy. Frank's story is very sad, but with the audio version, I could see the humor in his tale. The pathos of growing up terribly, terribly poor mostly in Ireland, would be too much to take without the humor. Frank starts off his story by saying that his parents should have stayed in New York, and not gone back to Ireland, however I think they would have been just as bad off in New York, if not worse because there they wouldn't have had even the meager amount of familial assistance that they got, mostly from Angela's family. I must say I was actually pretty impressed with Frank's father, aside from the drinking. Now, if you take away the drinking here's very little left, but in those times he was great. He was never abusive, always supportive and caring. But in the end, he was the reason for the family's downfall.

But what makes the book is Mr. McCourt's writing. There are thousands of memoirs, but this is the pinnacle of the genre, and it's not because anything particularly unique or interesting happens. It's because Mr. McCourt is a fantastic writer. He really conveys the feeling of living in these hovels in Limerick, but without bogging down the story with a lot of details. At the same time, he has remembered a huge amount of details from when he was a very young child. The story is at times tragic, mostly horrible, and occasionally interspersed with moments of light and hope. I loved it, and listened to it every chance I got. I am really looking forward to 'Tis, even knowing how things work out since I read the last book first! I am so glad I didn't give up on this book, and instead found a way to read it that worked for me.

I bought this book from Audible.


Christy said...

I remember being surprised by the funny parts in Angela's Ashes. The communion wafer story was hilarious.

I remember that the book ended when he was a teenager and I remember thinking that he should have ended it sooner, because it seemed an odd place to end the book.

BookQuoter said...

Something about this book. I reread this because I remember that I loved it when I first read it eons ago, but I ended up not liking it as much. I found myself so frustrated with his father.