Book Review: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, the 1996 memoir by Irish author Frank McCourt. The memoir cdetails McCourt’s very early childhood in Brooklyn, New York, but focuses primarily on his life in Limerick, Ireland. It also includes McCourt’s struggles with poverty and his father’s alcoholism. The book was published in 1996, and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. The sequel ‘Tis was published in 1999, followed by Teacher Man in 2005.

The compelling, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of Frank McCourt’s childhood, Angela’s Ashes is the story of the McCourt family in the 1940s. Their story starts in New York City, where Frank spent his earliest years, but soon the family returned to their native Ireland. The poorest family in their village, Frank’s father was an alcoholic who squandered their money on drink, until he eventually abandoned his wife and children. Angela, Frank’s penniless mother, was left alone with her many children to live in outrageous conditions of abject poverty.

The narrative is unlike any I’ve read. McCourt writes conversationally in a comical, rambling voice of run-on sentences alive with irony and humor. He captures adult interactions while still retaining the child’s unworldly perspective, in this way telling two stories at once. An unforgettable, haunting and original memoir.

I’ve also read most of McCourt’s other memoirs,‘Tis and Teacher Man, but didn’t find them as compelling as Angela’s Ashes.

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