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Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

30 out of 32 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    This book was ok.

    The book Angela's Ashes was very sad and depressing. I cannot believe such a thing actually happened to one family. Poverty, the lack of social class, and sickness played a major role in making Frank McCourt's life so tragic. I do not recommend just anyone reading this book. I would only recommend reading this book for research purposes only or if you were just curious. The book is about going through life dealing with poverty and sickness from day to day. Therefore, I believe this story is very strong, but I do not believe all age groups should be exposed to this type of literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Very intriguing. This book truly makes one grateful, with all th

    Very intriguing. This book truly makes one grateful, with all the tribulations expressed and told throughout. I would only recommend it for a teen to adult audience just for some of the themes within. Great read, a little dragging but it’s a memoir and life tends to null at sometimes. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Everyone else: Yay!; Me: Ehh.

    Not what everyone cracks it up to be. Not fabulous literature and more talk of masturbation that is necessary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    I think overall this was a pretty good book. I didn┬┐t want to h

    I think overall this was a pretty good book. I didn’t want to have to force myself to keep reading this book if it wasn’t interesting, but I think I was pleasantly surprised with how the book had enough humor and character to make me want to keep reading. Frank McCourt made the story interesting by writing it from his perspective as a child in impoverished Ireland in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. I can’t say that I could exactly relate to the book, but Frank McCourt described the little details, (sometimes details we didn’t really want to know about!) which left me with very few questions at the end of the book. I think this is a good book for a high school student who needs a historically accurate book for a book report or a project. I wouldn’t classify this book as a pleasure read for a high school student, but I would recommend this memoir to a student who is looking for a book that will keep them interested, long enough to finish their project. I do wish that sometimes other people’s perspectives could be included in the book; I know this is not possible because it is a memoir, but sometimes I would’ve liked to know what Angela, Frank’s mother for example, was thinking or feeling at certain parts of the book. Through Frank McCourt’s perspective I could see how living in impoverished Ireland would be very hard for anyone to endure. “Worse than an ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” (Page 11 of Angela’s Ashes) Overall I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars because it was definitely not my favorite book, or a book that I would pick out as a pleasure read, but it was well written and exceeded my expectations.

    ~Written by a 9th grader

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    i understand that this was a sad thing for him to recollect but

    i understand that this was a sad thing for him to recollect but the book made me pretty depressed it was just way to sad {but it was an okay read}

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  • Posted November 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Ok Book

    Very good writer was just slightly dissapointing to know this writer won a Pulitzer prize while other writers I have read this year were not just very good writers but outstanding writers. Story was streched so long for a sequel that was upsetting as well.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    How many chapters???

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    A great read!

    SPOILER ALERT
    Angela's Ashes was a great book portraying the hardships families went through during the Great Depression era in America, and Europe. The importance of religion and your roots were very important in Europe during this time and this book portrayed that very well. I think this book is intended for any young adult or adult who likes reading true stories and can handle very sad stories. The content has a few funny times to counteract the sad times, but there are many more sad parts than funny. The title could have been better, but it does make sense to what the book is about. I think that Frank wanted to show that Angela suffered arguably the most because she was the one who had to deal with Malachy's drinking problem and all of her children dying. She had little pride because of all the begging she had to do just to feed her children and stay alive. I like the way the story ended, although I could predict it. I'm glad it was a happy ending instead of a sad ending and Frank got to return to America. It made me glad that I read the whole thing and something good happened to Frank. The most interesting part of the book was when Frank got typhoid fever and somehow he did not die. I thought it was interesting because whenever his brothers or sister got sick, they ended up dying. The book did not have that many exciting parts, but I would say it was when Frank is a messenger for the post office, he has to deliver a message to and Englishman named Mr. Harrington. When he does, the man gives him sherry and tells about how his wife just died. When Mr. Harrington leaves the room to get something, Frank baptizes her and Mr. Harrington sees. He is very angry and Frank has to jump out of the window to get away from him. The book was an autobiography, so the author wrote it as a life story. He wrote everything in order, and in first person. His style is easy to understand, and easy to read. It did not have flashbacks or a confusing structure, it was just the story of his life which I enjoyed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2010

    A Better Sense Of Appreciation

    Angela's Ashes is a memoir written by Frank McCourt. Frank tells the story of his childhood and his vivid memories of living in poverty - barley hanging on.
    Reading Angela's Ashes gave me a new found appreciation for all that I have. It makes you realize what is truly important in life. Reading the book draws a fine line between wanting things and actually needing things. Your heart goes out to families, like the McCourt family, who live day to day in severe poverty, and children who never asked for selfish parents. The book is very well written, but the majority of the read is quite depressing. It does, however, give you insperation knowing that you can do whatever you set your mind to, and raise yourself up from nothing. When you have finished the book, you will walk away with a better sense of reality.
    I would recommend this memoir to anyone who is very well off and wants a great perspective of life on the other end of the spectrum. Angela's Ashes would be a difficult read for those who are emotional or easily depressed.
    For those who enjoyed Angela's Ashes, I would recommend The Glass Castle written by Jeannette Walls. It is memoir of how a young girl who lived a brutal childhood, but overcame it and is now very successful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    A book I'll always remember

    It took me about a week to read this book, and I'll never forget the McCourt family. It was at times depressing and heavy, but did teach me about Irish people and their history. I was surprised at the extended family's rejections and shunning and admired the McCourt family's determination to make it through by doing what they had to do. It did seem though to be much the same from chapter to chapter until I just couldn't imagine them existing on yet more bread and tea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2002

    Demon Poverty

    McCourt's writing mechanics were superb. The story was universal, addressing the hardships for families and children living in extreme poverty. My heart broke for his sad mother. No doubt, the struggle and worry for her must have been overwhelming.I enjoyed the book and could relate to the economic and environmental extremes of poverty as my family faced many of the same hardships when I was a child. Tho a little slow in places, soon the story takes off running again. Remembering details from early childhood is not uncommon, expecially when a strong emotion is attached to the incidents/memories. McCourt did a great job showing the scenes through the eyes of a child. The only part of the book I didn't like was one gutter slang word used a few times. This book should be required reading for every "Children and Family Services" worker. Thumbs up to McCourt and Angela's Ashes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2002

    Sympathetic but Uninteresting

    This true story of an Irish Catholic boy who grows up with an alocoholic father and a family that has very little food or money, was not very interesting. The chapters were repetitive, they consisted mostly of the same contents; the father getting money (he was in and out of a job through the whole book), drinking it all away, and the money begging for food and money to keep her four surviving children alive. This got kind of irritating after awhile. I had a great deal of trouble getting into the book because the subject of the book interested me very little, even though I did get a look into a life that was affected by alcoholism. I did get a sense of sympathy for the author when he talked about how gross the living conditions were, where he lived and how his father was when he came home from night of drinking all the family's money away. Although he did tell a respectable story of his life from ages 4-19, there was a lack of interest on this end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2000

    Sad, slow, and in need of punctuation

    I bought this book because it was about Ireland, and I'm Irish. However, when I was reading it, all I wanted to do was add parenthesis where they needed to be and try to speed up the action. This young man must have been in misery as a child, and I feel for him, but couldn't some happy moment have come from it? I've read other books that had sadness, but they also had places in them where they were happy, funny, and so on. This is bound to be a classic, but I would not want to read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2000

    Well worth reading

    Angela's Ashes is definitely a book well worth reading! McCourt did a superb job relaying his childhood to the world. It took much courage for Frank to , not only write, but also publish, a book about these horendous circumstances he grew up in. His writing awakened me to the face of despair, how fortunate I am, and a different style of writing. Within the first fifty pages of Angela's Ashes, three of Angela's children had died. The horror of death struck me, as it never has before. McCourt's use of detail and description helped me visualize the exact circumstances surrouding the childrens' deaths. I was also able to see Malachy getting drunk and forcing the boys to get up and sing about Ireland. This innocence, expressed by McCourt, definitely took courage. It was McCourt's writing style that made the novel have such an impact on the reader. I had not realized how fortunate I am until I read this book. It was amazing to think about the truth of the literature. This is partly due to McCourt's writing style, but mostly it is in response to his circumstances. McCourt had an extremely tough childhood. For him to have made it through that took much bravery and internal strength. Although his attitude was not always the best as a child (i.e. how he ran out on his family, because Angela was having 'excitement' with Laman) and his maturity was not always at it's best (i.e. he did his business off the top of the castle on the hill), Frank was always a great human being. He never thought of intentionally hurting his mother and he was a thoughtful person. McCourt's lack of punctuation was difficult to become accustomed to. It was hard to distinguish between the speaker and the thinker, at times. I often felt as if McCourt expected the reader to place punctuation marks in, such as commas. This was nice, because it placed the opportunity on the reader to have a feel for the text. Yet it was mostly difficult, because it was hard to follow. Despite minor faults of Angela's Ashes, it is a book well worth reading. I feel that McCourt did a wonderful job with this novel. It took much bravery for him to publish this piece of literature. I commend McCourt for his efforts!

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