Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

by Frank McCourt

Scribner | May 25, 1999 | Trade Paperback

4.7471 out of 5 rating. 87 Reviews
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"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy-exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling-does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors-yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela's Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 3.32 × 2.17 × 0.31 in

Published: May 25, 1999

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 068484267X

ISBN - 13: 9780684842677

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– More About This Product –

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

by Frank McCourt

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 3.32 × 2.17 × 0.31 in

Published: May 25, 1999

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 068484267X

ISBN - 13: 9780684842677

About the Book

Frank McCourt returned to America when he was nineteen. For many years, he was an English teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. The sequel to "Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, " will be published in the fall of 1999. McCourt lives in Connecticut.

Read from the Book

Chapter One My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone. When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all -- we were wet. Out in the Atlantic Ocean great sheets of rain gathered to drift slowly up the River Shannon and settle forever in Limerick. The rain dampened the city from the Feast of the Circumcision to New Year''s Eve. It created a cacophony of hacking coughs, bronchial rattles, asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks. It turned noses into fountains, lungs into bacterial sponges. It provoked cures galore; to ease the catarrh you boiled onions in milk blackened with pepper; for the congested passages you made a paste of boiled flour and nettles, wrapped it in a rag, and sla
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From the Publisher

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy-exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling-does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors-yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela's Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

About the Author

Frank McCourt returned to America when he was nineteen. For many years, he was an English teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. The sequel to Angela''s Ashes, ''Tis, will be published in the fall of 1999. McCourt lives in Connecticut.

From Our Editors

Born in Depression era Brooklyn to Irish immigrants, Frank McCourt experienced a childhood fraught with poverty and occasional cruelty. When the family moved back to Limerick, Ireland, Frank endured the most miserable of childhoods. From harrowing family episodes to the surprizing, indefatigable spirit of McCourt, this memoir is an absorbing read from start to finish. An astonishing, glorious debut, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela's Ashes recounts McCourt's experience with remarkable exuberance and remarkable forgiveness.

Editorial Reviews

Vanessa V. Friedman Entertainment Weekly The power of this memoir is that it makes you believe the claim: that despite the rags and hunger and pain, love and strength do come out of misery -- as well as a page-turner of a book. And though the experience it tells of was individual, the point -- and the story -- is universal.

Bookclub Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Countless memoirs have been published recently, yet Angela''s Ashes stands out. What makes this memoir so unique and compelling?

  2. Discuss the originality and immediacy of Frank McCourt''s voice and the style he employs -- i.e., his sparing use of commas, the absence of quotation marks. How, through a child''s voice and perspective, does McCourt establish and maintain credibility?

  3. Ever present in Angela''s Ashes is the Catholic Church. In what ways does the Catholic Church of McCourt''s Ireland hurt its members and limit their experience? How does the Church protect and nurture its followers? What is Frank''s attitude toward the Church?

  4. McCourt writes: "I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland." Was this your impression of Frank McCourt''s father? How can Frank write about his father without bitterness? What part did Malachy play in creating the person that Frank eventually became?

  5. Women -- in particular mothers -- play a significant role in Angela''s Ashes. Recall the scenes between Angela and her children; the MacNamara sisters (Delia and Philomena) and Malachy; Aunt Aggie and young Frank; Angela and her own mother. In what ways do these interactions reflect the roles of women within their families? Discuss the ways in which Angela struggles to keep her family together in the most desperate of circumstances.

  6. McCourt titles his memoir Angela''s Ashes, after his mother. What significance does the phrase "Angela''s Ashes" acquire by the end of the book?

  7. Despite the McCourts'' horrid poverty, mind-numbing starvation, and devastating losses, Angela''s Ashes is not a tragic memoir. In fact, it is uplifting, triumphant even. How does McCourt accomplish this?

  8. Irish songs and lyrics are prominently featured in Angela''s Ashes. How do these lyrics contribute to the unique voice of this memoir? How does music affect Frank''s experiences? How do you think it continues to influence his memories of his childhood?

  9. Frank spent the first four years of his life in the United States. How do his experiences in America affect Frank''s years in Ireland?
Recommended Readings

The Horse''s Mouth, Joyce Cary

Stop-Time, Frank Conroy

The Barrytown Trilogy, Roddy Doyle

Dubliners, James Joyce

The Liars'' Club, Mary Karr

Ironweed, William Kennedy

Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories, Joseph Mitchell

Mother of Pearl, Mary Morrissey

A Fanatic Heart: Selected Stories of Edna O''Brien, Edna O''Brien

Later the Same Day, Grace Paley

Family Sins, William Trevor

Carry On Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse

Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe

This Boy''s Life, Tobias Wolff

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