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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
How everyone drooled all over this book, I will never understand. I will grant that McCourt is not a bad writer, but I just could not believe, or even read about, all the misfortune happening in this one family. Every other page another baby dies. Who wants to read that?? I was exhausted before the end of Chapter 2.


message 2: by Brynne (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:37AM) (new)

Brynne | 2 comments i read the entire book about 7 years ago and was horribly depressed the whole time i was reading it. i don't know what all the raving was about, either.


message 3: by Teresa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:40AM) (new)

Teresa | 6 comments Did you read the follow up? He wrote a second book. I tried to read the follow up and I just couldn't even get past the first chapter.


message 4: by Brynne (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:40AM) (new)

Brynne | 2 comments i saw the follow up and thought about reading it but then decided against it. i figured it couldn't have been any better than the first book.


message 5: by Teresa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:40AM) (new)

Teresa | 6 comments I have doubts that anything good was missed by skipping it :)


message 6: by Chrissy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Chrissy (tricycles) The thing is, that much misfortune did happen to people living in Ireland at the time. Before coming to America, my great-grandparents suffered just as much hardships as the McCourt family. That was just how it was.


message 7: by Kipahni (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

Kipahni I have read most of McCourts books.
They are all on the depressing side but his outlook on the misfourtunes of life take a honest view with little bits of humor and love.
I personally enjoy his books.


message 8: by Chrissy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

Chrissy (tricycles) I'll definitely look for it on audio. Thanks, Sarah!


message 9: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Lord save me from the uniquely meretricious drivel that constitutes "Angela's Ashes". Dishonest at every level, 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 their collective need to feel superior because they have managed to transcend their primitive, bog-soaked origins, escaping the grinding poverty imagined in the book. And Frank the pimp misses not a beat, tailoring his mendacity to warp the portrayal of reality in just the way his audience likes.

No native Irish reader of my acquaintance has anything but the deepest contempt for this particular exercise in literary prostitution and the cynical weasel responsible for it.

(Apologies if, at any stage in the above, I have overstepped the bounds of acceptability. McCourt triggers my aggression in a way that few other authors do. Well, maybe with the possible exception of the execrable Bret Easton Ellis and his whiny nihilistic self-absorbed protagonists. But that's another rant entirely.)


message 10: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:59AM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments I loved Angela's Ashes, and I don't care if it is true or not. I still love it. But this is really for Sarah. I have wanted to read 'Tis and everyone on here agrees that it is horrible. Well, I also was curious about Frank McCourt's Audio voice, so I decided to get 'Tis on Audio. I know the story is supposed to be lame, but at least I will save my eyes, and can enjoy his voice.


message 11: by Jackie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:59AM) (new)

Jackie | 27 comments I made the mistake of reading "Angela's Ashes" almost immediately after I had read "Kaffir Boy." Are you familiar with this autobiography? The author details his childhood in South Africa--as a native. "Kaffir" was the South African equivalent of the N-word. Every word defies belief that this person ever made it out of South Africa to tell this tale. The tone does not betray any hint of self-pity.

In contrast, "Angela's Ashes" felt really whiny and self-absorbed. I'm sure it's unfair to measure degrees of despair to determine if a person is worthy of sympathy.

However, "Kaffir Boy" also ruined any sense of compassion for the author of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" as well. That--and the fact that I was under the inexplicable impression that this book would be about the African American experience. Maybe I was thinking of "Raisin in the Sun?" I will say this about "Tree"--the author did seem to retain some sense of humor, as a few of the scenes seemed to be told with a subtle sarcasm.

I regained sympathy when I picked up, only just this past spring, "A Glass Castle." Wow--that's a sad and really twisted childhood as well. Has anyone read this one?


message 12: by Jennie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Jennie | 7 comments I read the Glass Castle. I couldn't put it down -- it was enthralling. Jeanneatte Walls is a fantastic story teller. I think some of the story was hyperbole, but who cares? It is a great read. I'm pretty sure I listed that one at five stars.


message 13: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) I didn't like Angela's Ashes. I barely remember reading it, but the one lingering thought that stays with me is, "That's it? That's what everyone is weeping about? It sounds like my grandpa's childhood." I felt distinctly nonplussed and I think my grandfather told it much better in funny and engaging anecdotes over Sunday dinner.


message 14: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Jackie,

I assume Kaffir Boy ruined A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because you read it right after?


message 15: by Diane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Jackie - I read The Glass Castle with my book club. Wow puts it mildly, doesn't it? It is one of my all time favorite books, and I recommend it to everyone. We should start a new topic on it!


message 16: by Diane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Did anyone read A Monk Swimming by Frank's brother, Malacay? I thought it was very entertaining - he has quite a sense of humor and uses it to spin on his hardships and mistakes. In fact, I saw Malacay at a book reading years back, and he is charming and a hoot. The title spoofs on how he had trouble as a kid understanding the words to his prayers..."Blessed are Thou Amongst Women" he heard as "Blessed are Thou A Monk Swimming"...


message 17: by Chrissy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new)

Chrissy (tricycles) ^ I just started reading A Monk Swimming. It looks pretty good so far.


message 18: by Diane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) I'd be interested to hear what you think of it, good or bad.


message 19: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Laura (kaparual) eh, Angela's Ashes wasn't TERRIBLE, just really, really overrated.


message 20: by Tracy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:13PM) (new)

Tracy | 1 comments I thought this book was very good. It's definately not light summer reading, but not all books are supposed to be happy. This one tells it like it was then, as depressing as it may be. I haven't read the follow up book yet, but I plan to.


message 21: by Ximena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

Ximena | 2 comments Oh Angela
I could not get over all her bad choices, again and again, I felt so much despair for her and her family! She was in my opinion just dumb - and I do not like dumb women - I like them smart :)


message 22: by Diane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Ximena - "on the dole" and the husband spending what little $ he made in the bars!


message 23: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

John | 8 comments Not only that - don't they also buy cigarettes?


message 24: by Ximena (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Ximena | 2 comments Oh, it was so bad....even the grandparents could not help and didn't she get knocked up all the time too!!


message 25: by Christy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Christy It's been almost five years since I've read it, but I do remember liking it for the most part. A particularly memorable passage was the one where he first takes communion. Maybe it's memorable because it was a great bit of humor amidst the misery.

I also remember that I did not like the last chunk of the book, when he hits puberty. It seemed disjointed from the rest of the book.

So I guess I'm middle of the road on this one - don't love it, don't loathe it. Thought it was worth the read.


message 26: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

Clare | 53 comments I enjoyed all of Frank McCourt's books. I LOVED Angela's Ashes. It was sad and real. I guess that's what books are all about - we love some and hate others. Some books are so-so. I do enjoy the discourse on this site and even enjoy hearing why someone hates a book I love. Great comments, everyone. P.S. I'm Irish. LOL.


message 27: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Well, Clare, we are *so* just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. But there's nothing like a little healthy disagreement to fuel some interesting debate, eh? :)


message 28: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:20PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I have to agree, good books. There is something to be said for being Irish, as far as appreciating his work. If you don't believe in Irish poverty, well, lucky for you you never saw any. It's grueling, and his book captures the isolation of it as well as the rigors. His mother made a bad decision but was too proud to run from it. Also, she loved her children and her husband. It's a forgivable mistake, but an unforgiving world. I don't know if they would have had it any better in NY in those days. Maybe a little. Certainly, in the 30s and 40s it was Dickensian.

I saw Malachy's play in dinner theater in NYC, with another actor playing Frank's role. Very funny and clever. Malachy's book didn't move me as much as Frank's -- he's more of a showman, and he didn't seem to want to convey as much of the pain.


message 29: by Anne (new)

Anne I couldn't finish it. Depressing and boring.


message 30: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 55 comments Wow! I just realized this thread was here. I have to say that I did like Angela's Ashes. As I have written elsewhere, I think you have to have a very dry sense of humor to appreciate the book. I laughed much more than I cried when I read it. It may be over-rated, but I couldn't put it down when I started reading it.

The part I remember is when the friend tells Frank he will invite him to his sister's wake (sister has not even died yet) if he does something...I can't remember what...give him his communion money or something. The reason being that at the wake there will be lots and lots of food. It is very ironic humor.

Like someone else said, I really don't care if part of it is made up. I think artistic license gives McCourt that right. The book does a really does a good job of showing that religion doesn't have all the answers and we do have to step up for ourselves sometimes. It also shows how families can get in generational ruts and I am very proud of McCourt for seeming to get out of that rut.


message 31: by Mark (new)

Mark It caused me to gag. Couldn't get past the first several pages.


message 32: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 55 comments Does anyone know why it's called Angela's Ashes? I couldn't really figure that one out because she never died in the book. I kept waiting for her to die.


message 33: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture I'm with you, Dianna. I loved this book. I found a lot more humor rather than misery in it. I think Frank McCourt is a gifted story-teller, and I've read all of his books as well as Malachy's. I think Angela's Ashes is the best of the lot though.

My Irish Nana told me that the book is pretty true to Ireland at the time.


message 34: by Jana (new)

Jana (jdarlingxmissioncom) | 6 comments I was saddened to see Angela's Ashes in the "Books I Loathed" list. I also found this book to be very humorous. The way McCourt described his family (especially his Catholic grandmother) was captivating to say the least. To each his own though.


message 35: by Abi (new)

Abi To me, this book did not seem 'fake'. For one thing, this is autobiography; McCourt didn't make up his life. For that reason I think it's a bit pointless to criticise it because Angela is 'stupid' and not 'strong' (I would disagree, I think she's incredibly resilient) because it's a real woman and that's how she was in the eyes of her son. I have absolutely no doubt that life for the Irish poor in the first half of the 20th century was every bit as hard and dirty and tragic as McCourt describes it as. Historically, whilst you can't confirm the details, everything in the novel is entirely plausible. I thought he captured fantastically well the life of the Limerick poor and I thought he was tremendously funny. Yes, there was a lot of tragedy, but the book wasn't depressing or unremittingly melancholic. The tone was usually light and wry or ironic.


message 36: by Abi (new)

Abi "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 their collective need to feel superior because they have managed to transcend their primitive, bog-soaked origins, escaping the grinding poverty imagined in the book."

You're just plain wrong if you think that the poverty in Ireland depicted in this book was 'imagined'. Perhaps you see it as cliched and stereotypical, but it doesn't stop it from being true. You might be right about the superiority (I'm not American, I can't pretend to understand that 'Irish descent' psyche), but that Ireland existed. Can I ask what gave you the impression that the poor of Ireland weren't really that poor, and that it didn't really rain that much (it still does rain that much, let me tell you), and that those social problems were just fictional? Or is that not what you're saying?


message 37: by Clare (new)

Clare | 53 comments Even though i vigorously disagree with "rainsodden cliches..." I think it is a well written criticism from someone with a good vocabulary.

I do have to say my Irish ancestors were very, very poor - starving in fact. The infamous Potato Famine drove them to leave Ireland.

And...I think we have to remember that Ireland had no birth control (do they even allow it now?) and thus families were large, children often died young, and Irish disease of alcoholism loomed large in many an Irish family (like mine). I don't think any of this was made up; why did someone mention that?


message 38: by Andi (new)

Andi One year we hosted Malachy at the King County Library System here in Washington. And let me tell you, he's as funny, serious, and heartfelt as his books. If you check out an audio book or see an interview with him, it will change how you read his books - he writes like he talks, and lives like he writes.*

I will read anything he writes after having met him. And I certainly wouldn't mind hanging with him again, too!

*[LIKE he writes, not WHAT he writes; to clarify.]


message 39: by Andi (new)

Andi I will mention that I don't feel the same way about Frank, although I did really 'like' his story of his mother's life in Ireland at the time. I agree the end was a little disjointed, but the storytelling is phenominal nonetheless. What a topic to take on, especially of one's own experience.


message 40: by David (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Abi:

The reason I believe that McCourt's account does not ring true is because I grew up in Ireland and my maternal grandparents lived in Limerick during at least part of the interval in question. So I grew up with my grandmother's stories about Limerick. Which really paint quite a different picture. My impression is that most people in Ireland had a similar reaction to mine, though my empirical evidence on this is limited to friends and relatives.

To be fair, I suspect much of the inaccuracy arises not so much from a deliberate intent to mislead, but because of the natural recall bias that leads memoirists to select memories, or present them in a way, that they feel will please their readers. This bias often works primarily on a subconscious level, but that doesn't reduce its considerable potential to distort.

It's also been my experience since moving to the U.S. that many Irish-Americans have opinions about Irish life and history which are very entrenched, but sometimes completely inaccurate. I think McCourt would have been quite familiar with Irish-American attitudes while writing the book, and that this definitely had an influence.


message 41: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 55 comments David, I live near a big city, in the suburbs. If I were to ask many of the suburbanites here to write a memoir of their life they would paint quite a different picture from someone who grew up in the city itself (not far off) where things such as drive-by shootings and gang violence may have been more commonplace. Do you think it is possible that the discrepancy between your grandmother's stories about Limerick and McCourt's account of his childhood could be, in part, due to a difference in upbringing and/or familial affluence?


message 42: by David (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Dianna:

I think that might explain some of the discrepancy, though Limerick was probably a more homogeneous place, with less physical separation. It's probably also true that some of my mistrust of McCourt's account stems from nothing more than a certain streak of orneriness in my own nature.


message 43: by Holly (new)

Holly | 40 comments Frank McCourt once commented that he was first and foremost a "storyteller." That his stories are exaggerated in order to tell a better story but the essential kernel of truth is real.

The first time I read Angela's Ashes I was crying all over the place. The second time, I found it appallingly trite and self-aggrandizing. I suppose on a third read I will just roll my eyes and sigh.


message 44: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 27 comments I guess I don't care whether it's accurate or not. Things that make Oprah cry (oh, yeah, and things that made my ex swoon and slip into that fake irish brogue he claimed he picked up living in Ireland for a few months when he was six...yeah, whatever) tend to just piss me off.

Disclaimer: For those very reasons, I never read it, so really, I'm just talking out of my...hat.


message 45: by Terry (new)

Terry | 10 comments So Frank McCourt can write. Sure. But I think this is the literary equivalent of physician-assisted suicide....Angela's Ashes made me turn the pages, yes....but each next page made me want to kill myself to spare any more agony. Curiously, a dear friend who had the most horrific childhood [and I'm a therapist and, after 33 years of practice, believe me, I've heard some horror stories!!!:]...she loved the book and came away with the message of 'what a close, loving family!' I thought it was almost a characature of the poor Irish familly with the drunken father destroying everything he came in contact with! Put this book next to Running With Scissors and you've got the prescription....certainly the rationale....for killing yourself!!!


message 46: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jpnwt) | 21 comments Christy wrote: "It's been almost five years since I've read it, but I do remember liking it for the most part. A particularly memorable passage was the one where he first takes communion. Maybe it's memorable be..."

I agree about the book changing when he hit puberty. Up until then, it was a sad story about the struggles of an impoverished family with an alcoholic father (and I was reading it while my own baby was in the hospital, which was a huge mistake). But when he hit puberty, it seemed to become all about masturbation, in horrific and disgusting detail, and all my sympathy flew right out the window. If that was such a big part of his adolescence, I wouldn't have minded him alluding to it. But I really didn't need to read story after story about it.


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