Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1) Angela's Ashes discussion

Angela's Ashes

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message 1: by Teresa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teresa Papoutsis What a true revelation as to how life was during the depression which did not only hit America but the entire western world. I do have to wonder how he could survive such abuse, but then you would want to read David Pelzer's book on his abuse which are also true and wonderfully written.

message 2: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Melissa I found this book to be very heartfelt and bittersweet. As an Australian with Irish descendency I found it a fascinating insight into the way Ireland was in the 1940's and 50's.

McCourt encapsulates the vibrant but confused mind of a child's voice very well.

I've read somewhere that it has been contested that Frank's family was in fact not as poor as perhaps made out in the book, that it was exaggerated to add to the drama. I find it hard to believe that you can exaggerate the drama of losing several siblings and having an alcoholic father though.

Despite it's rather depressing qualities I always find this book rather uplifting when I read it. There's a sad cheerfulness about it that leads the reader to understand that though the worst may happen, the Irish way is to not give a fiddlers fart in the end.

Kathleen Dixon I picked up this book at a stall sometime last year because I thought I ought to read it. I was putting it off because despite it being one that everyone raved about it also was said to be "harrowing", and I didn't really want to read anything painful. However, having passed it by several times when going through the books on my WaitShelf I finally decided I should start reading it. "After all," I thought, "I can always take my time over it and read lighter novels along the way so it doesn't get too much." Well, what brilliant writing - it totally deserved its 1997 Pulitzer (I'm sure they'll be delighted to know that I agree with them) - and though it was relentless in its portrayal of the grinding poverty of his childhood and the enormity of the drinking problem among the poor and the ignorance of the masses, it was also a book of pure delight.

I've been reading a number of reviews and comments posted here in Goodreads, and was stunned at a number of vociferous put-downs. They seem to come from a certain snobbery or an expectation that books should fit specific moulds in order to be considered good. I don't know . . And as for people saying that the poverty was exaggerated, who's to say? and who cares? It's not a report or an application for funding! Besides, our memories are real, whether or not they can be proven historically. The memories I have of my childhood at age 3 or 7 or 11 may or may not be corroborated by my siblings, but they're 'real' nevertheless.

This small piece touched me the most:
The Dominican church is just up Glentworth Street.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it's a fortnight since my last confession. I tell him the usual sins and then, I stole fish and chips from a drunken man.
Why, my child?
I was hungry, Father.
And why were you hungry?
There was nothing in my belly, Father.
He says nothing and even though it's dark I know he's shaking his head. My dear child, why can't you go home and ask your mother for something?
Because she sent me out looking for my father in the pubs, Father, and I couldn't find him and she hasn't a scrap in the house because he's drinking the five pounds Grandpa sent from the North for the new baby and she's raging by the fire because I can't find my father.
I wonder if this priest is asleep because he's very quiet till he says, My child, I sit here. I hear the sins of the poor. I assign the penance. I bestow absolution. I should be on my knees washing their feet. Do you understand me, my child?
I tell him I do but I don't.
Go home, child. Pray for me.
No penance, Father?
No, my child.
I stole the fish and chips. I'm doomed.
You're forgiven. Go. Pray for me.
He blesses me in Latin, talks to himself in English and I wonder what I did to him.

Caroline Gold The book is fantastic, it has many a sad moment, as I would expect when comming from a poor family, before the days of 'signing on' and how life was ruled by the Catholic Church, but for me humour just shines though! As KiwiKathleen quoted, and I just loved the bit after his First Communion!!

But the film, oh how that paints a dull dreary picture, it captures none of the humour for me.

Incidently, I went to Dublin to meet Frank McCourt, and meet him and was 'gobsmacked' I just kept looking at his eyes and teeth, and thinking of how bad they were in the book! Wonderfull book, wonderfull man!

message 5: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val I agree that it was incredibly uplifting. I had the incredible pleasure of listening to it on audio. Frank McCourt reads it himself, he sings the songs, and the story comes alive. It is the single best audio book I have ever heard. I cannot recommend it enough.

Amanda Enjoyable, but also frustrating. Frank McCourt's parents might have done their best, but it wasn't very good. Their children were often hungry, but they had the money for their smokes and booze. I've talked to people about this, and some say, "They had a tough, disappointing life and had to have their small comforts." To which I say - bullshit.

What an amazing writer Frank McCourt is. Reading Angela's Ashes is like listening to the best storyteller in the world tell a true, painful, sad and funny story. The fact that you know he turned out okay makes the tragedy bearable.

message 7: by Babar (new)

Babar Ali I cannot understand why i found the book enjoyable.I remember driving to a 24hr supermarket at 1am in a alightly depressed state of mind.Going through a self-destructive phase of my life I wanted to change my life,learn..widen my horizons.
At the supermarket there was the usual fiction books and glossy celeb-autobiographies.Beckham,Jordan,Posh Spice etc.What wan cay they teach me?I want to read about real lives and be inspired.Angela's Ashes!Yes,this will do.Not enough choice her.
Well,Franks life was a simple life.A struggle but no extraordinary achievment.No expectations,no glamour,no beautifull women,no leisure,no wealth.
Just life.
The whole world read it and appreciated it.

Angela This is one of my favorite memoirs. I love the quote from the beginning that says, "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood. Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." I was caught on right then.
Everyone should read a memoir like this sometime in order to really understand what depths of a gloomy life can be.

Donna I listened to this book on audio and it was the best way to hear this incredible story. Mr. McCourt's Irish brogue is fabulous and only adds to his storytelling. I had to listen to Tis and Teacherman after hearing Angela's Ashes. These are all wonderful books. I only wish I were Irish!

message 10: by Eva (new)

Eva This book really made me cry. The bit where one child died and the other was looking for him was so harrowing. It really upset me. What a brilliant book. To think that it's true.

message 11: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love it. It is full of such wonderful writing and imagery! Reads like poetry...I especially love the lack of quotation marks, surprisingly.

Thomas Fitzsimmons Great book. Makes me proud of my Irish heritage.

Viviana D. Otero When McCourt passed away, I shed many tears. He was not just a master of memoir writing, but he symbolized (I know this sounds like a cliche) the American dream. It means that everything is possible in America if one learns from the past and blends those past experiences with present life to create an unforgettable future. Frankie was just that! He created a fantastic form of narrative (which symbolizes a limerick) transformed it into paragraph form. A form that was born only because he took to heart the humor, the sadness, and the anger from everyday life in America and Ireland .

If you thought this book was great, you should read 'Tis. It is even better!

Michelle Geaney This is one of my favourite books ever. I had watched the film before I read the book but i enjoyed both. Its fabulously written. In parts, McCourt uses humour to smooth over his reflections on some hard parts of his life, in my opinion, and it adds to it all i think. I was saddened when he died; what a loss to the literary world. Thank God he left this gem behind.

Sharon A great book. What I loved is that he told it with such love and humor. There were times that I was laughing and crying at the same time.

Thomas Fitzsimmons I had the great pleasure of knowing Frank McCourt and his brother Malachy even before he wrote AA. We used to lunch at "The First Friday Club" lunches which were held at Eamonn Doran's on 2nd Avenue. The lunches were an excuse for all of us Irish writers to swap lies, drink the afternoon away and network. I miss those days.

Julia Thomas wrote: "I had the great pleasure of knowing Frank McCourt and his brother Malachy even before he wrote AA. We used to lunch at "The First Friday Club" lunches which were held at Eamonn Doran's on 2nd Avenu..."

Thomas wrote: "I had the great pleasure of knowing Frank McCourt and his brother Malachy even before he wrote AA. We used to lunch at "The First Friday Club" lunches which were held at Eamonn Doran's on 2nd Avenu..."

Wow - that's so cool!!

Thomas Fitzsimmons Besides picking up the bar tab for the writers who couldn't afford the price of lunch--all of the working writers were most generous--Frank was a mentor to us all.

message 19: by Robin (new)

Robin Never read the book for its content matter.

Shirley I loved reading Frank McCourt's books. Another great Irish author is Brendon O'Carroll. His books are incredible, funny, touching, sad and so very real.

message 21: by Robin (new)

Robin Thanks for the heads up.

Donna What do you read a book for? Just curious.

Donna I only read Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll and it did remind me of McCourt's stories. I want to read more of him.

Shirley I am currently reading The Chisillers. It is equally as good. The Granny ends the trilogy but there is another book called The Young Wan, it goes back to when Mammy was younger. They are all on my summer reading list.

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I enjoyed the book to a point. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if my friends hadn't hyped it up so much before I read it. That can happen with any book though, so I don't blame the author for that. I was confused to why the book was called Angela's Ashes, becuase his mother was still alive at the end of the book, and when I looked it up online, I found an article saying the book was split into 2, "Angela's Ashes" and "Tis". I must read Tis next, becuase I assume it is just as good. Although, I wonder why there is so much hype about Ashes, and I didn't even know Tis existed until I looked it up online afterwards?

message 26: by Robin (new)

Robin I didn't read the book due to the impoverished issues. I know silly me. Maybe Angela's Ashes the title is an allegorical theme to that despite all that she went through she was like the phoenix and she rose from the ashes? Just a guess. McCourt also wrote Teacher Man about his time teaching in New York, if I am not mistaken. Haven't read "Tis.

Antica I was very sad to hear of his death. He came to my college a couple of years ago; I always loved his books and seeing him in person he was such an amazing person. Despite this childhood being very depressing, he was a very fun guy; The crowd just adored him and people who dont enjoy these kinds of books just headed up and spoke with him about the book and how he inspired them to read. He will be missed. The autographed copy of this book is one of the few things I treasure

message 28: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo To Robin,
re: Angela's Ashes
You are missing something wonderful.

message 29: by Robin (new)

Robin I may read it. I have heard both good and bad about this book. May read it in the near future. I have heard more good than bad about this book though.

Kiragu Humour all through and the jibes at the English [who brought fleas to Ireland after the Irish had driven out the snakes] can't get funnier. One of my best.

Charles Robin: it's all good. It's not always pretty or happy. But the overwhelming feeling is positive. Read it.

Pippin For me the ending was a revelation of the feelings and perspective that immigrants have on arriving in the U.S.

great present tense writing - we are there in Ireland growing up with Frank McCourt.

message 33: by Susan (new) - rated it 1 star

Susan Bright I could not get into this book. It was so slow and depressing. After reading all of these comments, I may have to give it another try!

message 34: by Angie (last edited Sep 29, 2011 04:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angie It is a bittersweet story, somehow depressing (not all the passages are sad and depressing), but it is a very remarkable novel because of how he has dealt with adversity during his young years before returning to EEUU.

He was expected to be a nobody and a failure like his father, but he went against the bets and became almost the opposite (he fulfilled in the end his dream of returning to America).

What surprises me, is that when I read the title, I though he was going to write mostly of his mother, but he wrote mostly of his own life in Limmerick.

message 35: by Christine (new)

Christine This is such a heart-wrenching memoir, written with such wonders how McCourt can forgive his father; he paints him with a compassionate brush even though he really was just a drunk who allowed his family to languish. Beautifully written.

message 36: by Lori (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori there are some books I am so impressed or moved by that i know I will read it again. and I have. one of the best memoirs i have read. I also read two more books by Frank McCourt, "Tis" and "Teacher Man."

Firstname Lastname Carl wrote: "Being a father, it's hard to fathom a man who drinks up his paycheck while his children go hungry. It's also hard to fathom a mother who allows it."

Both divorce and abortion were illegal.

Darren Freebury-Jones Patrice wrote: "I love all of McCourt's books. However, when I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I discovered that McCourt had ripped off a lot of Joyce. Especially the way he speaks in a child's voice..."

I've only read Joyce's Ulysses (found it incredibly boring), but you make an interesting point on originality. Personally I found that in writing a memoir I couldn't avoid writing in a child-like voice for the early chapters. I suppose an author of a memoir adapts his voice to suit the persona he demonstrated at that stage in his life. McCourt's sequel 'Tis, however, lacks the impact of the first one because the childish voice (use of the phrase 'the excitement' etc.) no longer suits his age, in my opinion.

Kaamasee Lonjose I liked this book because it was funny at some points but also shocking because the mother Mrs. McCourt has had many misscarriagess in her past life. also i read the---not finifswh class is over/

message 40: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean I have recently finished Frank McCourt's ANGELA'S ASHES. It was my second bout with McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning auto-biography and once again I found myself both absorbed and moved by the story. Often when I like (or hate) a book or movie, I will sneak a peek at the assorted reviews and browse the opinions of the multitude of readers who disagree with me. It is, I suppose, a kind of penance I feel I must undergo for my giddy, literary enjoyments and my own miserable Irish Catholic childhood. ANGELA'S ASHES is just such a book. For every reader who sounds a note of praise for McCourt's memoir, there is another who damns both the book and its author. The selected responses of the goodreads readers is a prime example. Nevertheless, I have remembered the book fondly and my regard for ANGELA'S ASHES and Frank McCourt's extraordinary writing remains unshaken.

There's so much to admire in McCourt's recollection of his impoverished childhood in Limerick. The unrelenting poverty, death and despair that resided at the heart of of the book is skillfully offset with great humor and surprising compassion. McCourt does for Limerick what James Joyce did for Dublin with his detailed descriptions of the sodden lanes and smokey tenements. As a writer, Frank McCourt effortlessly captures the character of young Frankie with a convincing mix of innocence and guile. It is a carefully measured journey propelled by the boy's keenly observant commentary of growing up in circumstances that are nearly impossible for the reader to imagine. Here's young Frankie in his tattered clothes and broken boots attempting to rouse his jobless, alcoholic father out of the pub where he has gone to drink away the dole money. And here's Frankie nestled in the same father's lap relishing their morning time together with tales of brave Cuchulain who all know saved Ireland. There's Frankie's long-suffering mother, Angela of those Ashes, burying her dead infants, begging a sheep's head for Christmas dinner and battling the growing despair that surrounds them all. And its all topped with cast of Limerick characters that would frighten Charles Dickens. As Frank McCourts tells us in the memorable opening passage of ANGELA'S ASHES, it's a wonder Frankie survived it at all.

As a thoroughly integrated Irish American raised in a solidly middle class Irish American family, I must admit to finding a few disturbing similarities between my comfortable Yankee upbringing and the utter impoverishment of the McCourt family. There were, of course, a lot of Irish aunties and uncles and cousins whose assorted eccentricities bordered on the psychotic. My mother suffered through it all including Notre Dame's successive losing seasons with legendary strength and patience. My father worked hard, enjoyed success, but maintained a fondness for Irish whiskey. While I don't recall him ever demanding that I die for Ireland, I do remember some late night choruses of 'Kevin Berry' though he forgot most of the words. Like young Frankie, I survived the hard-knuckled admonishments of nuns, Christian Brothers and Jesuits. I too discovered poetry, Shakespeare, Guinness, and girls.

Re-reading ANGELA'S ASHES brought back a lot of memories. While my world is very different from the McCourts, some of those ashes were very familiar. It also made me consider how much books and reading have meant to me through the years. It's a priceless gift and exactly what I would expect from a book that is as memorable as ANGELA'S ASHES.

message 41: by David (last edited May 05, 2014 11:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Schwinghammer Loved ANGELA'S ASHES and his other memoirs. I usually don't read them. It seems a little arrogant to me. Really liked the teacher one, since I was an English teacher.

message 42: by Saby (last edited May 08, 2014 11:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Saby I cried, sighed, wondered... awesome book. I read `Tis after that and the Teacher Man. Loved them all. I'm a frank McCourt fan for life. Angela's personality reminds me of that of my own mother.

David Schwinghammer I believe he taught at Peter Stuyvestant (sp) high in New York City, one of the best schools in the city. Funny stuff about his first classes.

message 44: by Dushyant (new)

Dushyant I recently finished reading Angela's Ashes. There were occasions where tears were rolling down my cheeks and there were times when I was laughing, especially when the young boys wears his dead grandmother's dress.

In Indian literature, we count compassion (Karuna) as a nectar(rasa) of Sahitya (literature)and this book makes your heart melt with compassion if you ever have experienced the agonies similar to the ones the author had. I had intentionally read the reviews of the readers who just did not like this book for the sheer depiction of poverty which they found unconvincing..I appreciate their view too but I would listen to my heart's judgement. It is a memoir, not an autobiography.

David Schwinghammer I read a lot about Gandhi's philosphy for a book I was writing; I think he was a Hindu, though, right? I also read a book about Buddhism, which emphasized compassion. It got a little confusing toward the end when it talked about that wheel and reincarnation. That didn't seem to be something Gandhi would have stressed. Gandhi's ideas were impressive. He was a great man.


message 46: by Dushyant (new)

Dushyant He was a great man indeed, that is why he is addressed as Mahatma, the great soul. There are few people like him who would rise above the limits of a human being. What he did was for the sake of humanity, not for the betterment of his next birth, as the theory of Karma would prompt one to do.

I have sent a message to you earlier too because I could not find you message.

David Schwinghammer I liked the stuff about turning the other cheek. It has a different name, and I'm too lazy to look it up,
but I remember people were actually trying to get sent to prison in India when Gandhi was fighting for independence. It was ironic that he was killed by one of his own people (a Hindu).


message 48: by Dushyant (new)

Dushyant Turning the other cheek is a teaching from Bible. This is how Gandhi garnered his wisdom from holy books of all religions. Most of the people in India would criticize Gandhi's nonvoilence citing "his" saying of turning the other cheek which sounds to them submissive and unmanly. "Weak men" would rather have the power to tolerate than attack, this is how nonvoilence is mistaken unfortunately. They forget Gandhi also said, "If a mouse lets the cat kill him, it does not mean he has forgiven her."

Yes it was ironic that he was killed by a Hindu but as I told you his secular ideology clashed with fundamentalists and his killer was a fundamentalist Hindu.

"I remember people were actually trying to get sent to prison in India when Gandhi was fighting for independence." Perhaps you are referring to That was not turning the other cheek..that must have been turning too many cheeks to slap..LOL

David Schwinghammer It was the Hindu version of turning the other cheek he got from the Bhagavad Gita. He used a lot of tenets from that book during his activist and politcal stages. When he was in South Africa, he was treated like a second class citizen but he never fought back. But these acts got publicized in England with a serious backlash. He later used the same methods in India. I see a Hindu just got elected prime minister, but he's not a Gandhi/Nehru party member. I guess there are still a lot of Moslems in India, and he might have difficulty with them. If you're still looking for my original response look at Angela's Ashes. You're on that discussion now, so it should be above this post somewhere.

message 50: by Dushyant (last edited May 17, 2014 10:41PM) (new)

Dushyant I have been reading Gita for few months and I have read half of Gita by now but I did not find any such teaching in it. However, I agree to this review if you would not mind reading it. Gita actually teaches to fight back and Gandhi was not against fighting back but his means was different...he believed in the creative approach of self-reformation and non-violence. He was in favor of opposition but without the instinct of revenge. He called it Satyagraha...the urge for what is right or true.

Whenever a riot or battle happens, it only refreshes the hatred in the hearts of people involved and only adds a new chapter to the history of atrocities.

Muslims are the second largest community in India. The new Prime Minister of India despite his infamy for communal riots in Gujrat wooed the Indians with a promise of economic development. It is yet to see how he gets along with Muslims. He is not a follower of Gandhi for sure.

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