Angela's Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood

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9780002254434: Angela's Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood

McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning look back at his childhood. "It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while..." Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's sad, funny, bittersweet memoir of growing up in New York in the 30s and in Ireland in the 40s. It is a story of extreme hardship and suffering, in Brooklyn tenements and Limerick slums -- too many children, too little money, his mother Angela barely coping as his father Malachy's drinking bouts constantly brought the family to the brink of disaster. It is a story of courage and survival against apparently overwhelming odds. Written with the vitality and resonance of a work of fiction, and a remarkable absence of sentimentality, Angela's Ashes is imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's distinctive humour and compassion. Out of terrible circumstances, he has created a glorious book in the tradition of Ireland's literary masters, which bears all the marks of a great classic.

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Review:

Frank McCourt's haunting memoir takes on new life when the author reads from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Recounting scenes from his childhood in New York City and Limerick, Ireland, McCourt paints a brutal yet poignant picture of his early days when there was rarely enough food on the table, and boots and coats were a luxury. In a melodic Irish voice that often lends a gentle humor to the unimaginable, the author remembers his wayward yet adoring father who was forever drinking what little money the family had. He recounts the painful loss of his siblings to avoidable sickness and hunger, a proud mother reduced to begging for charity, and the stench of the sewage-strewn streets that ran outside the front door. As McCourt approaches adolescence, he discovers the shame of poverty and the beauty of Shakespeare, the mystery of sex and the unforgiving power of the Irish Catholic Church. This powerful and heart-rending testament to the resiliency and determination of youth is populated with memorable characters and moments, and McCourt's interpretation of the narrative and the voices it contains will leave listeners laughing through their tears.

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 does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story.

Perhaps it is a story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing shoes repaired with tires, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner, and searching the pubs for his father, 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.

Imbued with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion -- and movingly read in his own voice -- Angela's Ashes is a glorious audiobook that bears all the marks of a classic.

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