Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

October Books 11) Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt

This was given to us by a dear Alaskan friend in Bosnia back in 1998, and I read it pretty avidly then; my other half, however, gave it up as too awful after the second dead baby. (The second is not the last.) Rereading it, I still think it's a tremendous tour de force, an agonising story of poverty and how Ireland can wreck your family; I am perhaps a little better read in this sub-genre now, but it remains a classic.

If you haven't read it, it's the Pulitzer-winning autobiography of Frank McCourt, son of a Limerick lass and an Antrim lad, born in New York in 1930, but propelled back to Limerick by the Great Depression and by his father's alcoholism and utter inability to hold down a job. Angela, his mother, sometimes holds it together and sometimes doesn't; they are treated by church and layfolk as the undeserving poor; significantly, rather late in the book, Frank gets his first real break working for the remnant Protestant community of Limerick. There are some funny moments, but in general it's a grimly realistic account of the Years of the Great Test, and how they played out for the most vulnerable. (Perhaps a little exaggerated - I don't believe a word of the Theresa Carmody subplot.)

So; I think it's a great story about poverty and social exclusion, and the damage caused by addiction; I think one has to take it with a slight pinch of salt; but even without the pinch, it's a compelling tale.
Tags: bookblog 2014, pulitzer, world: ireland
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