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Title: Angela’s Ashes
Author: Frank McCourt
Angela’s Ashes is a memoir by Frank McCourt about his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Frank is Angela and Malachy’s first born son and was born in America where the family lived briefly before relocating. The family later moved to Ireland after the death of their daughter, Margaret.
This is a story about hardship, extreme poverty and perseverance. Angela’s family wallows in poverty in Ireland and struggle each day just to get something to eat. Most of the times, the family survives on slices of bread and tea. There are times when they have to sleep hungry. Malachy is an alcoholic unable to feed his family. He drinks away his wages and finally goes off to work in England and never comes back home or send any money like the other fathers do.
“The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live.”
― Frank McCourt,
Angela has to do everything possible to provide for her family. Mostly, she is forced to beg for food. Frank on the other hand is desperate to become a man and start providing for his family which has now grown to include five brothers although two of them later die. It’s nice to see how much Frank valued the idea of manhood and seemed to try very hard not to end up like his father. For instance; when his mother fell ill and there was no food at home, Frank stole food from the streets to keep them going.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is one of the saddest stories that I have ever read. Children dying (three children die of infancy illnesses); others starving, while others struggling with afflictions of being poor. The family is so poor that they sleep on fleas infested beds. They can’t afford milk for the babies and at times, Angela gives them water with sugar. At some point, they are cold and can’t afford coal and so they use the timber of the walls of the house as firewood.
However, Frank McCourt tells his story in such a way that the characters are not pitiable. There are humorous moments despite the struggles. I especially liked the story of Frank’s journey to self-awareness. By 11 years old, he is working and providing for his family. At the age of fifteen, Frank loses his first love to Tuberculosis and at 19, he moves to America. Angela is also a woman to be admired for her strength and resilience.
“A mother’s love is a blessing
No matter where you roam.
Keep her while you have her,
You’ll miss her when she’s gone.”
― Frank McCourt,
I also loved the fact that the story was told from the perspective of the child narrator. It was interesting to have incidents described with the childlike innocence. Growing up in a religious society, Frank struggles with remaining righteous despite the many temptations that seem to come his way. He is always at confession sharing his ‘sins’ with the priests and seeking absolution. As a young boy, Frank does not understand about sex and even thinks that children are dropped home by angels. I admired the fact that at the age of 66, the author still managed to portray such a strong child’s voice.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it. I give it 5 stars. I look forward to reading the sequel, Tis and find out about Frank McCourt’s life in America.