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Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: 'Tis by Frank McCourt


I am done with Frank McCourt! Yes, I know this is book 2 of 3 but I read Teacher Man first. And I'm glad I did because while I did enjoy this book, I don't know that I would have gone on to a third book after this one.

So Frank has made it to New York. Thanks to a creepy priest he met on board the ship, he gets a job at a hotel, cleaning. He wants more but with his bad eyes and his lack of a high school diploma he isn't likely to get anywhere. So while his friends are trying to avoid getting drafted to Korea, he signs up. The army fixes his teeth and does what it can for his eyes, and send him off to Germany and he trains to be a clerk where he learned typing and organization. Back in America he talks NYU into letting him attend conditionally, given his lack of a high school education. Unbeknownst to him he's in the education school, but that's okay. He meets cute girls and is baffled by the young, privileged teens he's in school with who discuss Camus and drink coffee while he works on the docks in warehouses.

Naturally life goes on and he does eventually get a teaching job and marry and has a daughter. But after he's done with school, I didn't like the style of the book as much. It lost its narrative thread and instead the chapters towards the end felt more like essays, like they should be titled things like "Our buddy Frank" and "My new job at Stuyvesant High School." After all the nuanced detail we've gotten of his entire life up to here, it's disappointing to not know much about why his marriage broke up, or even be able to figure out exactly what year it is and how old he is. The essays jump around a bit and so in one his daughter will be 10 and in the next, he's talking about changing her diaper. It was good to get closure with his parents' lives. But I was a little disappointed at the end with the structure.

That said, it was still wonderful. As always, I really loved that Frank McCourt narrated it himself. Many parts were hilariously funny that I don't think would translate as quite as humorous in print. It ended abruptly without even a second separating McCourt's last word from Audible's tagline but that's a minor detail and Audible's issue, not McCourt's. 'Tis is an appropriate follow-up that finishes up the stories begun in Angela's Ashes. And although I listened to Teacher Man long before I started reviewing, I would recommend it very highly.

I got this book from Audible.com.

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