Angela's Ashes

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
- Frank McCourt


Have you ever had a book that took you on an emotional roller coaster every time you turned a page?

Frank McCourt’s Angela's Ashes is a memoir about his experiences growing up as a poor, Catholic child in Ireland. I remember wiping the tears from my eyes at one paragraph followed by laughing at the next. I couldn’t believe how much power an author had to make me become an emotional mess.

A Washington Post review said about Angela’s Ashes:

“For if the physical conditions of Frank McCourt's Limerick childhood were appalling -- fleas, rats, a single malodorous toilet for 11 families, TB, typhoid fever, diphtheria and the deadly damp from the River Shannon -- and the emotional conditions were impoverished by his family's inability to express love, he emerged with at least one great inheritance: the Irish gift for, and love of, language and music.

Angela's Ashes confirms the worst old stereotypes about the Irish, portraying them as drunken, sentimental, bigoted, bloody-minded dreamers, repressed sexually and oppressed politically, nursing ancient grievances while their children (their far-too-many children) go hungry. It confirms the stereotypes at the same time that it transcends them through the sharpness and precision of McCourt's observation and the wit and beauty of his prose.”

McCourt uses his words to describe such a terrible living circumstances in often a humorous and optimistic light. What I liked about this book was that after I finished it I didn’t feel incredibly depressed. With other books that discuss the human condition, I have to go eat some ice cream or watch a happy movie to carry on with life. But with Angela’s Ashes, McCourt is able to leave a sense of hope as well as a new, poignant insight. 

This Pulitzer-prize winning book is an excellent addition to a reading list, and definitely one needed to be read at least once.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it? 

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