Book Review – Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s ashes by Frank McCourt
Published: October 3rd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1996)
Genre: Biography, memoir, nonfiction
Pages: 452

I’ve read enough memoirs of miserable to childhoods to know well enough that children never complain about their miserable childhood and they just deal with it the best way they know how. This is one no different, and yet it is. Set in Ireland during the great depression Frank and his siblings struggle with their alcoholic father drinking away all the family’s money on a daily basis and the mom not being able to do anything about it. They have one set of clothing, worn out shoes, fleas and they’re constantly hungry and wet. And he still manages to write with humor and tell the story of his younger years.

““You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”

McCourt published Angela’s ashes in 1996, he was 66 years old then, and I think this shows in the writing. He writes certain subjects with experience, but puts it in his younger world. He mentions the realizations that you may not come to until you’re older. This creates a very subtle divide between the story he’s telling in the moment through his childhood self and the author speaking to the audience.

I did not however find the book written with the eye and love of a native. McCourt was born in New York and moved to Limerick when he was around 4, then he moved back to New York at 19. There are references to the English and the relation to Ireland and since his father is from the North and not from Limerick it touches on a sense of non belonging. The way children today may feel being halflings. (As I myself am and get a feel of.) But this isn’t something that is dwelled on or affects the author visibly, but it is possible that it is a catalyst for his desire to leave.

This book is the first of a trilogy and my interest to read the remaining two is without a doubt sparked. The book was well written, easy to read and had a good pace, never dwelling on one thing for too long. I can see why it has made such an impact on the memoir genre.