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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

Angela's Ashes: A Truly Compelling Tale

Angela's Ashes is a compelling and inspiring memoir that gives the reader insight on the life of a poverty stricken Irish boy, Frank McCourt, and his family during WWII. McCourt's writing style draws the reader into his tale and creates pictures from his words that make...
Angela's Ashes is a compelling and inspiring memoir that gives the reader insight on the life of a poverty stricken Irish boy, Frank McCourt, and his family during WWII. McCourt's writing style draws the reader into his tale and creates pictures from his words that make readers seem like they are actually there. The memoir begins in New York in a small cramped apartment where McCourt lived for the first four years of his life. His parents had come to America with the hopes of living the American Dream, but instead their family encountered a struggle for food, clothing, and money. After enduring the hardships of America, the McCourt family decided to move back to Ireland in the hopes of finding a better life back in their homeland; however they again did not succeed in creating a better life for themselves. Despite the promises made by Frank's father to bring home money for his family, his alcoholic father continued to spend all of his paycheck on "the pint" leaving no money left over for his family. This left Frank and the rest of his family to fend for themselves in anyway they could. Frank's mother would beg the church for money, and Frank and his siblings would steal whatever food they could. They lived in tattered clothing and a worn down house, with hardly any food. Frank also endured hardships within school and his church. His teachers constantly called him stupid, beat him, and shot him down because of his ranking within society. However, Frank does finish school, proving his intelligence. Frank's school and church had consistently told that he has to die for God just as Jesus Christ died for our sins, however his father continuously tells Frank and his siblings to die for Ireland because it is the only worthy thing to die for. Frank becomes confused about life because he was never taught that there was anything to live for. After his father leaves for England to find work, Frank realizes that he must live to provide for his family and make a better life for himself and do more than what people expect from him. In his memoir, McCourt points out, "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" (McCourt11). Despite all of these hardships and obstacles, McCourt endures and learns to overcome the challenges that life throws at him. Angela's Ashes is a truly inspirational story full of perseverance, determination, and most of all, hope for the future. It teaches the reader to appreciate what they have and recognize the hardships that others must face. McCourt's writing style engages the reader in the tale and allows them to feel the same sadness, humor, joy, and anger that Frank McCourt felt throughout his childhood. Frank McCourt's story is a emotional rollercoaster, and in the end, it is well worth the ride.

posted by Ellen13 on January 10, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

You need the stomach for it!!!

The book seemed sick at some points. You really need he stomach for it. I recogment reading the book before the movie

posted by Anonymous on July 8, 2003

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    Angela's Ashes: A Truly Compelling Tale

    Angela's Ashes is a compelling and inspiring memoir that gives the reader insight on the life of a poverty stricken Irish boy, Frank McCourt, and his family during WWII. McCourt's writing style draws the reader into his tale and creates pictures from his words that make readers seem like they are actually there. The memoir begins in New York in a small cramped apartment where McCourt lived for the first four years of his life. His parents had come to America with the hopes of living the American Dream, but instead their family encountered a struggle for food, clothing, and money. After enduring the hardships of America, the McCourt family decided to move back to Ireland in the hopes of finding a better life back in their homeland; however they again did not succeed in creating a better life for themselves. Despite the promises made by Frank's father to bring home money for his family, his alcoholic father continued to spend all of his paycheck on "the pint" leaving no money left over for his family. This left Frank and the rest of his family to fend for themselves in anyway they could. Frank's mother would beg the church for money, and Frank and his siblings would steal whatever food they could. They lived in tattered clothing and a worn down house, with hardly any food. Frank also endured hardships within school and his church. His teachers constantly called him stupid, beat him, and shot him down because of his ranking within society. However, Frank does finish school, proving his intelligence. Frank's school and church had consistently told that he has to die for God just as Jesus Christ died for our sins, however his father continuously tells Frank and his siblings to die for Ireland because it is the only worthy thing to die for. Frank becomes confused about life because he was never taught that there was anything to live for. After his father leaves for England to find work, Frank realizes that he must live to provide for his family and make a better life for himself and do more than what people expect from him. In his memoir, McCourt points out, "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" (McCourt11). Despite all of these hardships and obstacles, McCourt endures and learns to overcome the challenges that life throws at him. Angela's Ashes is a truly inspirational story full of perseverance, determination, and most of all, hope for the future. It teaches the reader to appreciate what they have and recognize the hardships that others must face. McCourt's writing style engages the reader in the tale and allows them to feel the same sadness, humor, joy, and anger that Frank McCourt felt throughout his childhood. Frank McCourt's story is a emotional rollercoaster, and in the end, it is well worth the ride.

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Makes you realize how easy you have it

    Wonderful, wonderful wonderful but not something to brighten your day. It made me realize how easy I had it growing up.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Angela's Ashes: Engaging, Persuasive and Rousing!!!

    Angela's Ashes is a stunning and compelling memoir of times bygone. Frank McCourt has weaved a gossamer, a time travel through the early nineteenth century Ireland. This book will give you goose bumps and it will feel like you are essentially there. The story begins when McCourt is only four years old and living in sheer poverty. The McCourt family returns to Ireland, to make life better. This effort fails. Frank's father now moves to England in search of work. His determination is noteworthy. Frank's family doesn't think much of him and on the other hand his teachers tell him to lay down his life for God. Frank's dad wants him to lay down his life for Ireland. At this point Frank is truly confused about life. Frank ultimately finds his way through life and decides to live for his family- giving true meaning to the saying, "Charity begins at home." The negative remarks from his teachers only strengthen Frank's Irish determination to be successful in life. He eventually does so, providing for his family. He proves everyone wrong by being successful. Many young boys can identify themselves with Frank's life. This book is very appealing. It is easy to slip into McCourt's shoes and identify yourself with him. If you want to step back in time and live the life of a young Irish boy with World War II as a backdrop, this is the book for you!

    The social power over a citizen's life is vividly portrayed in this book. Frank is a prime example of how a foolish society can bring you down and dispossess you of further education based on how you dress and your social class. The society can drag down your sense of worth and self- confidence, as they did to Frank time and again. Poor Frank is overwhelmed with hunger throughout his early life. His family never had enough food to eat. Frank's father is an alcoholic and spends the little money he earns on alcohol! He talks about being faithful to Ireland all day long and yet he is not faithful to his family. Frank's hunger is both physical and emotional. He is also self- respecting and would never beg.

    I liked this book a lot! It is adventurous as well as an eye opener. It opens our eyes to the multi facets of life. Sometimes we get so used to and comfortable with our own way life living that we tend to overlook the different circumstances under which people live around the world.

    This book is a must read! I promise that you will not realize the full impact of this memoir until you have read and assimilated this! If you like Angela's Ashes you will love 'Tis: A Memoir' by the same author. I give this Pulitzer Prize winning book a ten out of ten.

    I believe the crux of this memoir is represented by, "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."
    (McCourt 11) This passage is found in the beginning of the memoir and it is here that McCourt expresses his opinion of how unhappy his childhood was and how he had to fight through the conflicting values of church and family. These values were imposed on him and he was left all alone, figuratively to determine which path must he chose in life. From this point on the book is simply McCourt's depiction of his life. He does this without expressing any personal opinion.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2003

    You need the stomach for it!!!

    The book seemed sick at some points. You really need he stomach for it. I recogment reading the book before the movie

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Touching and Fantastic. The novel Angela┬┐s Ashes by Frank McCour

    Touching and Fantastic. The novel Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt centers around the author’s life as a child and young man, dealing with such problems as heartbreak, alcoholism, and poverty. Throughout the book, events occur in Frank’s life that bring many hardships, but Frank sets goals for the future and remains hopeful. This book includes references of his family being Irish, moving from place to place, World War II, and relationships, and reflects how hard life really is for some people. I strongly recommend adults and teenagers to read this book because of my strong experience with reading it. Although almost the entire book was sad, the character development and emotion you walk away with is just incredible. Something I really enjoyed about this novel was the adventure carried throughout by Frank and his family page to page and that Frank never begged and was very self-respected and independent. On the other hand, my only disappointment was how painful it was to read and become a part of; the feeling of being in Frank’s shoes doesn’t have a point of relief or comfort in my opinion. Sensitive people like me, whom may shed many tears on their book, should absolutely still read this book; it is an eye-opener. Some of the many messages conveyed through the words of McCourt is honesty about struggle and being hopeful, thankful, and strong as well as how it feels to be very poor. For me, the themes of hunger and storytelling stood most outward during my read, and gave me a reality-check on how simple and carefree my life was and is growing up not in a broken or poor house. The author did a stupendous job of putting the reader in his shoes, and I overall rate this book five out of five stars.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    Angelas Ashes review

    Angelas Ashes is a good book. It is very easy to follow and sequenced out from the time Frank was young and the story followed his age. Personally myself I do enjoy reading about the authors life. I like the fact of how deep it goes into giving the details of Franks life. This book just informs the reader how the writers life was as a child and how the early 1900's were.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2003

    Horrible Book!

    I absolutely hated this book. It was a sad, disgusting book. I have to read it for school and I can't get past the second chapter. Everyone is always drunk and the things that it brings up are gross. I mean, I know life in Ireland during this time wasn't the greatest, but still, everything is dirty and gross.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2003

    Boring and Depressing.

    I think this book is long and boring. In ever chapter it talks about a poor little boy who is always starving for food and his family needs money. I would think that after they repeated that information like five times in chapter one alone that the reader would get the point. I thought by looking at this book that it would be a little more cheerful. I had a hard time following the order of this book since it always talked about the three different main places that it took place. I would not recommend this to anyone unless they cannot find a different way to waste their time.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Good, but not great....

    Perhaps I was expecting more as the author had won an award. I simply wasn't a fan of the writing style or structure of the story.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Don't Bother

    It was painful to get through.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Angela's Ashes: Entertaining, Compelling and Inspirational

    Angela's Ashes is a compelling and inspiring memoir that tugs at the heartstrings and stretches one's perception of life during WWII. Frank McCourt's unique writing style takes the reader on a journey through 1930's and 40's Ireland to the point that they would almost believe that they lived it themselves. This journey starts through the eyes of McCourt as a boy of only four years. Life for he and his family is not what they thought it would be in the 'Land of the Free' where every man has "...a new suit and fat on his bones...and a lovely girl with white teeth hangin' from his arm" (McCourt 358). Instead times are tough and money is scarce as is food and clothing. Because of this the McCourts decided to return to Ireland with the hope that they will be able to make a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, this is not the case. McCourt's father sees no light at the end of the financial tunnel that his family is stuck in, so he only sees fit to spend the money that he earns from the various jobs that he holds on "the pint." His job search eventually takes him to England, and Frank is left to take care of his family into his late teens.
    The unrelenting theme throughout the book is perseverance. Frank is constantly bombarded by his peers and his family with disgusted looks and solemn shakes of the head that say "He's never going to go anywhere in life." On top of this, Frank and his peers are told what is worthy to die for. His school teacher is always telling him to die for God just as Jesus Christ died for 'our sins.' Frank's father is always telling his boys to die for Ireland, for that is the only true cause worth dying for. Through all this encouragement of honorable deaths, Frank finally wonders "Is there anyone who would like us to live?" (McCourt 113). To his amazement, he can find virtually no one who would say "Live for Ireland" or "Live in God's graces" but still he chooses to become a "real" man and live to save his family. Death is not the only thing that is preached in Frank's school. Because of Frank's ragged appearance he laments that "The masters keep telling us we're an idiot" (McCourt 151). This constant badgering only encourages Frank to make something out of the nothing that he has been given. He eventually finishes school and then successfully becomes the provider for his broken and decrepit family. Through his perseverance, Frank is able to make something out of the ruins of his life so that he may not become what society has predetermined his life to be.
    While many memoirs can be dry by nature, Angela's Ashes is refreshingly engaging. McCourt's first person writing style draws the reader deep into his personal experiences and feelings. Passages will tug at the heartstrings and fill the heart with endearment as the words seem to jump out of the page to create an eerily personalized experience for the reader that was his former life. McCourt's writing style is simple yet elegant as he describes his experiences in a straightforward and sophisticated manor. This style allows for the reader to feel as though they are in McCourt's "train of thought" instead of just reading words on a page. For readers who are looking for a reading experience that is only one small step from actually living the history of the book, Angela's Ashes is a round trip ticket to a whole range of emotions and adventure.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

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    SAD! SAD!! SAD!!!!

    I cant bring myself to finish this book. Its to sad and depressing!!!

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2006

    Audiobook is the best ever

    The author not only reads his story, he sings. This book made me cry, I mean sob. This is a must read for every person on the planet. But I especially recommend the audio because the author is mesmerizing. This audiobook will make the person that doesn't enjoy reading want to start reading. If you have burnt yourself out on reading, or know someone that has, this is the book for you. Remember the audiobook is worth the extra money.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2003

    Jessica, a reviewer

    Angela's Ashes is a very emotional book written by Frank McCourt. I enjoyed the book because of his detailed writting and the honesty of this book. It was very emotional and hard to read at times but I know that Frank wanted you to feel exactly what was going on. Reading this book has made me more thankful for the world we live in today, we don't know what it's like to truly be poor. But reading this book defined poor in a whole new way.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Ehh...

    Okay book pretty interesting but slow and sad. Good for a depressing and/or rainy day. Me and my girlfriend share this opinion as well.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Was hoping for something more

    I haven't being looking forward to reviewing this book. I honestly don't know what to give it. I feel almost guilty for giving it 3 stars. Nothing about this book really stands out to me. I don't understand Irish traditions and customs, nor do I really understand War torn Europe during World War II. And this books doesn't really help with any of that. I keep waiting for someone to admit this is a exaggerated fabrication of what life was really like. I have to admit every time the drunken father shows up I'm reminded of an episode of Family Guy. Plus, I'm curious were did the father go? Am I suppose to feel in awe of this young boy who made something of himself by saving money stolen from an elderly women? Does it make his story more interesting than those who weren't able to escape poverty? I just don't know.. I do want to know what happened when he reached America, but I'm not sure I will read the next one.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    The most depressing book I have ever read!

    Just to think, my great grand parents came from Limmerick! Thank God they did! I found this book depressing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    one of a kind, and one in a million

    I think that it is a really good book. It is one of a kind, and that everyone should read it. The book tells of a boy and his family moving from place to place. And how they work through the troubled times with being poor, and how he is dealing with the hard times. they also show how the Irish families are torward the other family members other than there own family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2007

    Good book if you can relate

    I have found that I was in some of these experiences the alcoholic parent, the lack of food in some cases, a mother who struggled with the pain of a sick child. I found it relatable and worthy of looking at life with an open and forgiving perspective. Check it out at your library. If it doesn't satisfy, you've lost nothing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2007

    Not A Book For Everyone

    Before reading Angela¿s Ashes, I had expected to get a good read from this book. A lot of people have been giving it praise for the truth and reality that Frank McCourt writes about during his childhood during the depression. I have to say that I found the book to be interesting, but not enjoyable. First off the author hardly uses any punctuation marks in the book, which made it hard for me to read. Also the author seems to be talking to the reader , so there are a lot of run-on sentences. Another problem that I had with the book is that there were a lot of the times that the author would talk about the same things such as his father coming home drunk and dragging them out of bed. There is also very little explanation about why he used his mother¿s name for the book title. There is very little character development with his mother. He mostly talks about her begging for food or crying over her family. She doesn¿t really come across as anything else except for being a fraught individual. Now as for some of the positive things that I liked about the book is that Frank McCourt comes across as a likeable character that you can relate too. Through the book he talks about situations that he went through as a child and how he dealt with them. Also the author gives you a good timeline of his childhood and even though the writing can come across as being weak at times, you do get a good idea of how his childhood was like. It¿s a book that can really make you look at your own life and thank your lucky stars that you did not have to go through the misery that Frank and his family had to endure. Now for recommending this book to anyone, I would have to say it would be good for people who want to learn more about history and want to get more personal into it. I like to read personal memoirs from time to time, but this book does not take the cake for me. The main reasons why I did not like this book is because there was very little character development (as I mentioned about the mother.) A lot of the people that he mentions usually appear in one chapter and are not seen later. If he does mention a character again it¿s not until years later. I also feel that the author tried to put some heart behind his writing, but it does not show. He talks about his family being famished and poor, but I do not feel any emotions for them. Also Frank at times comes out to be a little gratuitous at times (there are some explicit scenes in the book.) These parts, I think, he could have left out of the book. I also hated how he ended the book. He just stops and does not explain what happens to him in New York. So after reading, I do not recommend this book to anyone (except to maybe history fanatics.) The book is interesting at times, but mostly just a bore. I also do not think that this book deserved the Pulitzer Prize ( I could name a lot more books that have won the Pulitzer Prize and is way better than Angela¿s Ashes.) If you want to read a truly inspirational memoir with a whole bunch of heart and truth to it, I recommend reading NIGHT by Elie Wiesel.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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