Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's sad, funny, bittersweet memoir of growing up in New York in the 30s and in Ireland in the 40s. It is a story of extreme hardship and suffering, in Brooklyn tenements and Limerick slums -- too many children, too little money, his mother Angela barely coping as his father Malachy's drinking bouts constantly brought the family to the brink of disaster. It is a story of courage and survival against apparently overwhelming odds. Written with the vitality and resonance of a work of fiction, and a remarkable absence of sentimentality, Angela's Ashes is imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's distinctive humour and compassion. Out of terrible circumstances, he has created a glorious book in the tradition of Ireland's literary masters, which bears all the marks of a great classic.
I can't really remember why I joined this bookring, maybe it was a recommendation from a friend but when it arrived I had forgotten and had no idea what was inside. I enjoyed reading but in all fairness I must confess it wasn't always an easy read. Life was harsh for a young Frank McCourt in Limerick during the 30s and the 40s as his father was mostly unemployed or spent his money drinking and there was never enough food to keep everyone fed or enough warmth, clothes and what else was needed.
I think what makes it such a fascinating story is that there's a joy in everything he retells. Despite the dreadful living conditions young Frank is always ready to make merry with his brothers or see the bright side of things. The family network that surrounds them is not as supportive as it could have been but they do help when things hit the bottom and religion has a big influence in how people live and behave daily.