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review 2016-03-12 04:13
Angela's Ashes
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

I read ‘Tis when I was a teenager, and it’s one of those books that have always stuck with me. I’ve wanted to read Angela’s Ashes for years. I’m glad that I finally got a chance to read it.


Frank McCourt was born in depression-era New York, but poverty and his father’s drinking drove his immigrant family back to Ireland. Life in Ireland isn’t any easier for Frank. He grows up in extreme poverty and faces disease and starvation. His only goal is to become a man so that he can get a job and support his family.


This memoir is pretty bleak. Frank did not have an easy childhood. His hunger, poverty, and unsanitary living conditions led to serious diseases that altered his life and killed a few of his siblings. Even though this book is difficult to read, it’s not completely depressing. There are moments of startling humor and beauty. The writing is very good. It’s blunt and occasionally vulgar. It’s honest without being melodramatic. I could really feel Frank’s desperation to make a better life for himself and his family, and I couldn’t imagine growing up like he did.


This book shows humanity at its best and its worst. Frank’s story has a lot of causal violence, but it also proves how kind people can be. One of my favorite scenes is when Frank steals a bag of oranges from a store. The store owner know that Frank and his siblings are starving, so instead of calling the police, the store owner gives the kids a second bag of fruit.


I don’t know very much about depression/WWII era Ireland, so the political and cultural aspects of this memoir are interesting to me. The book is a firsthand account of the conflicts between the Protestants and the Catholics and the English and Irish. Being an Irish Catholic is a huge part of Frank’s identity. I liked reading about someone whose life, experiences, and beliefs are so different from mine.


I enjoyed this book overall, but I have to admit that I was bored for a lot of it. I think the plot is slow, flat, and repetitive. Every time Frank starts to get ahead in life, something tragic happens that knocks him back down. This does help the reader feel Frank’s frustration, but the cycle becomes boring and predictable after a few hundred pages.


If you can get past the repetition, I highly recommend this book. It provides an in-depth look at extreme poverty and makes you grateful for everything you have. I can see why some people consider it a classic and an important work of modern literature.

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text 2015-09-15 23:10
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

Another Ireland story and a real punch to the gut. I remember my mom reading this when I was young, and being moved by its similarities to her own Irish family. 

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text 2014-08-25 17:07
A find
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood - Frank McCourt

I found Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt yesterday. Which is just as well, because it's pissing down today and the book would be no more had I or someone else not come across it.


Now it is here, looking at me. It boasts a Pulitzer, but I am not taken in yet. I will wait.

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review 2014-07-20 00:00
Angela's Ashes
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt Innocence was never this hilarious

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was like a part of some review on the backflap promised it to be: you can open it up on any page and find yourself drawn into the story.

The writing style was a little hard to get into for me at first. I think it took about 50 pages to get used to it and another 50 pages to start appreciating it. In fact, to start loving it. I got so hooked on it that there was no easily defined moment to stop, which is why I had to force myself to do so every time it was way too late for me to be reading.

The poverty described in this book was absolutely horrid. The McCourts had a roof above their heads, but that was basically the only thing that distinguished them from the homeless beggars on the streets. The possibility of starving to death in your own home, because there's no money left for food is a thought that didn't really occur to me that often before and it's just shocking to read about it, especially because the story takes place in a developed country approximately 75 years ago.
My own parents were small children back then and of course, it wasn't a feast of luxuries, especially with the war going on (which apparently paradoxically improved things for the Irish working class). My grandparents also queued up in the lines of people holding on to foodstamps, but still, it never came close to the extremities described in this book.

That being said, with all the illnesses, deaths, heartbreak, hunger and injustice mentioned, it NEVER gets truly sad. In fact, most of the time, it's downright hilarious. Which is why this reminded me a lot of Charles Dickens' work. Horrible circumstances yet still, you can't stop chuckling. It's also why I had to often remind myself even more that this story takes place in the 20th century instead of the 19th and that, while it reads like fiction, it is most certainly not (not that I'm saying Dickens' work is always pure fiction; a lot of his stories were based on his personal history of growing up).

Had this story been told from the perspective of an adult, it would've most likely been very depressing. However, seeing everything through the eyes of an innocent child gives you a whole different look at things. It's the main reason why the horrid things that happened turned into something funny. Take the death of a loved one that would've been heartbreaking if told by an adult; told by a child it can be a joyful experience because there's going to be sympathy, which leads to money, which then means being able to go to the cinema and eating sweets.

I can recommend this book to anyone really. I know I'm most definitely going to read the sequel [b:'Tis|4912|'Tis (Frank McCourt, #2)|Frank McCourt|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1375947803s/4912.jpg|1779262] to it some day.
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review 2014-05-23 04:25
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation - Lynee Truss,Frank McCourt

I first discovered Lynne Truss and her writing when visiting England.  I was poking around in a bookshop run by a woman who had quite possibly the most sour disposition I've ever encountered in anyone surrounded by books.  Maybe she loved all the books so much she didn't want anyone to take them away.  Anyway, I found Making the Cat Laugh: One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the Margins, and bought it.  A collection of essays and columns, I found it hilarious and have re-read it many times since.  When Eats, Shoots & Leaves came out, I snatched it up because I figured if anyone could make grammar entertaining, it would be Ms. Truss.  I admit, I started it, got distracted, and just this week picked it back up and started over again.


I was not disappointed.  Light, amusing, and incredibly informative; I learned that I've been using semi-colons correctly, but using hyphens when I should have been using dashes.  Colons are used for far more than what I remember learning and I'm probably abusing ellipses.  I am apparently old-school (I was taught by old nuns; perhaps that explains it?).  I still write "Ms." instead of "Ms" and use 2 spaces after my periods (full stops), for example. But more than any of that I discovered I care a great deal about proper writing, punctuation and clear communication.  Far more than I would have said if I'd been asked before reading this book.


I'm also a bit depressed at the state of grammar thanks in part to falling standards of education and to the ascendency of digital communication.  (I suspect we'd be in a better place, on the whole, if text messaging had been developed after QWERTY keyboards became standard on mobile phones.)  I accept that language evolves, but I can wish that it will evolve without discarding our beloved punctuation. 


I'll refer to this book time and again, as I refine and correct my own usage of punctuation and I'll keep fighting the good fight!  ;-)  


(Apologies to Ms. Truss for the emoticon.)

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