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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

(Frank McCourt #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  516,134 ratings  ·  11,483 reviews
In the extraordinary memoir that has won the praise of critics and the hearts of readers, Frank McCourt recounts the heartbreak and humor of his astonishingly poor childhood. Gorgeously written from the innocent perspective of young Frank, this is a memoir more dramatic, suspenseful and mesmerizing than most novels.
Paperback, First Touchstone Edition, 464 pages
Published December 17th 1998 by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (first published September 5th 1996)
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Jennifer Have you read the whole book? Angela often stares into, and stirs, the gray ashes of the fireplace. It seems that the title has a metaphoric…moreHave you read the whole book? Angela often stares into, and stirs, the gray ashes of the fireplace. It seems that the title has a metaphoric meaning...the ashes of a former life, or a life that has burned out, much like those mentioned in the Shinedown song 45: "I'm swimming through the ashes of another life"(less)
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) That's a hard question to answer because we're all different. What bores me rigid might fascinate someone else. I didn't find this book "boring" at…moreThat's a hard question to answer because we're all different. What bores me rigid might fascinate someone else. I didn't find this book "boring" at all. But it all depends on what you like, and you're the only person who knows that.(less)
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Eric Althoff
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I get too deep into my review, let me just say this: "Angela's Ashes" is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. That said, it is also fascinating, heartbreaking, searingly honest narration told in the face of extreme poverty and alcoholism. This absolutely entrancing memoir follows an Irish-American-Irish-American (more on this later) boy who comes of age during the Depression and the War years in a country gripped in the stranglehold of the Catholic Church, tradition, rampant ...more
Gail
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What, did NO one find this book funny except me??? I must be really perverse.
Although the account of Frank's bad eyes was almost physically painful to read, the rest of the story didn't seem too odd or sad or overdone to me. My dad's family were immigrants; his father died young of cirrhosis of the liver, leaving my grandmother to raise her six living children (of a total of 13) on a cleaning woman's pay. So? Life was hard. They weren't Irish and they lived in New York, but when you hear that
...more
Mitch Albom
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read his book, then I got to know him, and rarely will you find as similar a voice between the man and the writer as in this memoir. A tragic gem of a childhood story.
Brina
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I read Angelas Ashes by Frank McCourt initially when the book was first published. In high school at the time, my mother and I shared books. I was introduced to all of her favorite authors that way and most of these authors I still read now. One author who was new to both of us at the time was New York school teacher Frank McCourt who published a memoir of his life growing up in Brooklyn and Limerick, Ireland. As with most books from that era, I had vague recollections because I spent ...more
David
But the worst offender of the last twenty years has to be the uniquely meretricious drivel that constitutes "Angela's Ashes". Dishonest at every level, slimeball McCourt managed to parlay his mawkish maunderings to commercial success, presumably because the particular assortment of rainsodden cliches hawked in the book not only dovetails beautifully with the stereotypes lodged in the brain of every American of Irish descent, but also panders to the lummoxes collective need to feel superior ...more
Steve
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There once was a lad reared in Limerick,
Quite literally without a bone to pick.
His da used scant earnings
To slake liquid yearnings;
In American parlance a dick.

To get past a father who drank
In a place that was dismal and dank,
He wrote not in rhymes,
But of those shite times
A memoir that filled up his bank.
...more
George Bradford
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
If you had the luck of the Irish
Youd be sorry and wish you was dead
If you had the luck of the Irish
Then youd wish you was English instead

How can ONE book be so WONDERFUL and so HORRIBLE at the same time? I have no idea. But this book is both. Big time.

Its difficult to imagine anything worse than a childhood crushed under the oppressive conditions of abject poverty, relentless filth and unmitigated suffering. The childhood described in this book is the worst Ive ever encountered. The lucky
...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This autobiographical book about Frank McCourt's childhood is so lyrical and well-written that I fell in love with it by the time I was on the second page. And then it seriously took my heart and ripped it into little shreds and stomped on the remains.

When I read Angela's Ashes my children were really young, about the ages of Frank and his siblings at the start of the book. I found the story of their neglect-filled childhood in New York and Ireland - with a helpless mother and an alcoholic
...more
Annet
Impressive read...years ago already. Updating my library.
Maxwell
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, ireland, 2016
Quite different from other memoirs I read--especially the brand of memoir that's been coming out in the last few years--Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes tells of the author's poverty-stricken childhood in Ireland in the early 20th century. It's told from the first person present perspective, which doesn't allow for as much mature reflection, but it does create a very immediate & immersive atmosphere. And speaking of atmosphere, McCourt writes so descriptively and which such skill that you can ...more
Beata
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just felt depressed while reading this novel. You can't imagine that people could live in such poverty and yet survive somehow. The book is gripping but makes you feel helpless..
Lyn
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angelas Ashes is a beautifully written, painfully honest account of Frank McCourts childhood in Limerick, Ireland.

Franks parents, both Irish, met in New York and began their family there. McCourt himself was born in New York, but this was in the 1930s and the depression hurt everyone and everywhere, especially immigrant Irish with no resources.

So back to Ireland they go to live near his maternal grandmother. 1930s Limerick was not much better than New York, especially for Franks father who spoke
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that I didn't love the first third of this book but I realize the information gained there made me enjoy the rest even more. At times, this book was a beautiful dark comedy, "There is nothing like a wake for having a good time," and I think that some day I might make my kids promise to die for Ireland. Near the end, the young boy is trying to figure out what adultery is by looking it up in the dictionary; he is forced to look up new words with each explanation he finds and the ...more
Julie
Life is suffering.

And the root of all suffering is want.

And we want. Oh, we want.

We want the husband to keep the job and come home sober. We want the kids to live. We want shoes and clothes that fit and don't have holes. We want to eat. We want a roof that doesn't leak and indoor plumbing, for Christ's sake.

We want the priest with the servant not to kick us from his door and tell us our suffering is caused by sin. We want something kinder than guilt or shame.

We want friendship. We want love. We
...more
Jaline
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x-favourites
If you are afraid of your emotions, whether the depth or variety of them, don't read this book. If you can allow yourself to explore them fully by being led through an incredible life's early journey and experiencing the range of feeling available to humanity, you will love this book.
Tatiana
Picked this memoire to experience some more foreign countries through literature. Good choice. What could have easily been another misery porn (immense poverty, hunger, never-ending unwanted pregnancies, drunkenness, strict religion, deaths of TB and pneumonia on every other page) became something more because of the author's remarkable voice, filled with innocence, humor and almost unwavering optimism of childhood. Amazing that McCourt managed to preserve this voice well into his 60s.
Adam Floridia
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: being-a-teen
I had not planned on writing a proper review, so I began to read others'. Quite a few unleashed verbal vitriol at McCourt's memoir, claiming that it is not entirely accurate and that it is too mawkish/maudlin/bathetic. Others claim that the author romanticizes the penury and destitution of the lives in his lane.

First, no memoir can ever be 100% truthful; our memories are incomplete and sporadic (at best). In fact, as I read I liked that there were NO quotation marks used to indicate speech. I
...more
Kerri
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I tried to read this about ten years ago and gave up after the first chapter - I just couldn't connect with it. This time around was a completely different story. I loved the way Frank McCourt writes, it's lyrical and beautiful even while describing a very bleak situation. His childhood is one of poverty--- siblings die, his father is a drunk, there is never enough food, the housing sounds appalling. It's a very depressing book, as this was the reality for so many people, but there are also ...more
Teresa
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt paints a picture of a childhood mired in poverty. He manages to be humorous and heartbreaking, and hopeless and triumphant all at once. I laughed, I cried, I felt dearly for the disadvantaged McCourt family that struggled against all odds.

The memoir borrows heavily from the art of realism -- as tales of impoverished childhoods usually are. McCourt was born in depression era Brooklyn to an alcoholic father who spent all his wages at the bar, and a mother disgraced
...more
Angela Paquin
Aug 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haveread
It's been ten years since I've read this book. Like everyone else I was floored by it when it first came out. But time and age have made me wiser.

I don't think it's stood the test of time and the more I think of it... my grandmother is right. It's a one-sided, depressing view of life in Ireland.

"Woah is me..." is the book in a nutshell. This book simply has you marinate in negativity. Maybe I've read too much Phillip Roth in the meantime and compared to his characters this book seems too whiny
...more
Carol
This is one of the most depressing and heartbreaking true-life novels I've ever read so be forewarned, this Pulitzer Prize winner is pretty tough to take.

In the beginning, Francis (Frank) McCourt's family story starts out so desperate, you think it can't get any worse, BUT....IT....DOES!

Frankie had a very short and dreadful childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Even at age four with only the clothes (rags) on his back, he had adult responsibilities caring for his twin baby brothers, changing and

...more
Melvina
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my most favorite books and authors of all time. I can't get enough of Frank's stories. I also listened to him tell it on an audio recording, and it's even more awesome listening to his Irish accent. The most compelling characteristic of his writing is the ability to write about a subject as dire and despairing as poverty and neglect, and make it so blisteringly funny, I'm in tears. Then in another chapter, I'm crying with grief over the loss of his siblings and the humiliations of his ...more
Gary
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books of the 1990s-this beautifully written memoir tells of the suffering of a poverty stricken childhood in Ireland of the 1930s and 40s-written in such a way that it captures the sadness of the suffering of the family, and yet retains a seismic wit that will make you cry and laugh in turn.

Always written from the point of view of the child and teenager Frankie, at the age he is at the time, never from the perspective of an older man looking back, this is a book you wont want to
...more
Peter
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, five-stars
What makes this book special and makes it evocative of the era, is not just the painful details of a poverty-stricken Irish Catholic childhood lived during World War II, but the beautiful voice of the young Frank McCourt. The man, the writer of this book, the adult Frank McCourt, brings his youthful self alive in a way that brings the reader into direct contact with the author as a child.

The details of McCourts life and the things that young Frank notices evoke a certain era, and certain
...more
Joy D
Non-fiction memoir about Frank McCourts family from his birth in 1930 to 1949. After being born in Brooklyn in 1930, Franks father, Malachy, has troubles with alcohol and with finding work, and, during the Great Depression, decides to return to Ireland. The alcohol and work issues continue in Ireland, and the growing family lives in poverty.

The titular Angela is Franks long-suffering mother. She endures a seemingly never-ending series of hardships, including her husbands alcoholism, abandonment,
...more
Mark
Oct 23, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-again
Couldn't bear it. Whiney, self-obsessed and smacked of disingenuity. Using misery, either yours (imagined) or others (purloined) to make money seems to be the height/depth of cheap shots. Someone once told me of a review of the book that they had read somewhere

'Baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died, baby born, baby died; it rained'.

Admittedy there was more to it than that, however I read it a long time ago and the gloom of the misery and rain hangs still over the whole
...more
M is for Mallory
I can't put this down! I'm getting such a dark kick out of Frank McCourt's childhood. Favorite line that had me laughing out loud: "Oy, you Irish. You'll live forever but you'll never say challah like a Chew." I'm devastated this book is ending; it's been the most pleasurable part of my days over the past week. It's of course depressing, I mean, like he says in opening "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhoood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic ...more
Jo
I just love it when I come across a book as beautiful and extraordinary as this one. As I had already watched the film of "Angela's Ashes" I knew this was going to be somewhat bleak, but I had no idea just what an amazing book this would turn out to be.

Frank McCourt describes a childhood that is ridden with poverty. He made me cry, he made me angry, he made me happy and he even made me laugh. The book is harrowing, but the humour in this book is uplifting, and one cannot help but smile. My heart
...more
Jeannie
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer-prize, 2020
"I stand on the deck with the Wireless Officer looking at the lights of America twinkling. He says, My God, that was a lovely night, Frank. Isn't this a great country altogether?"

'Tis.

Connie
Let me cut to the chase and say that this is heartbreaking. My first McCourt book I was thrilled that the author himself narrated the audio and in all his Irish glory it made it so much more! I am pleased that I chose this as my introduction to this writer, as I feel I will now have a better understanding of his ambition and how his childhood made him view the world and people around him.

Heartbreakingly sad due to the horrible poverty and surroundings, I was amazed at how humorous this memoir
...more
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Francis "Frank" McCourt was an Irish-American teacher and author. McCourt was born in Brooklyn; however, his family returned to their native Ireland in 1934.

He received the Pulitzer Prize (1997) and National Book Critics Circle Award (1996) for his memoir Angela's Ashes (1996), which details his childhood as a poor Irish Catholic in Limerick. He is also the author of 'Tis (1999), which continues
...more

Other books in the series

Frank McCourt (3 books)
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  • Teacher Man (Frank McCourt, #3)

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