Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge


Angela's Ashes: A Memoir


“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.


Finally. Finally I am done with Angela's Ashes. Man that was a rough one to slog through. I was excited to start reading it, it was on my list of to-read for a while, but woah if I was not reading it for the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge I would not have finished it. It would go on the very short list of books that I just couldn't. I am determined to read every book on the Challenge list so yeah I did it, but it was not very fun. 

Angela's Ashes to me is kind of like when you go to a party and you see a cute guy and you think oh, maybe I will go say hello, only to immediately regret your decision. Then you are stuck forever listening to this dude talk on and on and you cannot find a polite way to excuse yourself from the conversations. Your friends aren't noticing your slight help me signals as they have actual fun people to talk to. It gets boring and you start to tune the guy out, just nodding and saying "uh huh" randomly and wishing this night would just be over already (or you had way more to drink). Then afterwards your friends are all:

"Hey who were you talking to? He was pretty cute!"

"Ugh, no, that was Angela's Ashes. I mean yeah at first I was all hey there, but like two seconds after I went over I realized I made a terrible mistake. He was sooo boring! He just went on and on and on about his childhood retelling basically the same thing again and again and again. His father is a drunk. He goes on the dole, he spends money on beer, he gets a job, he spends the job money on beer, he doesn't wake up for his shift the next day, he loses his job, he goes back on the dole, he spends the money on beer, lather, rinse, repeat."

"Oh come on it couldn't have been that bad."

"Really? It was just the same thing with his dad again and again. Then his mom just had a ton of kids, some of them died, he got sick, people went to the hospital, people went away, you get jobs, you get fired, you try to get public assistance, you do lots of random things. It was just really tedious and I didn't care. How can you make a story monotonous that I don't even care if a kid died?"

"Oh, yeah, that is...I don't know about that."

"Plus he told me all these random stories from his childhood. Things that didn't seem to matter or go with the rest of it. Things that somehow didn't really feel like complete stories. Like he had to take dance lessons once. He would go every week until his friend caught up with him on the way and asked him why he was going. Well after that they decided to just skip it and go to the movies and eat candy with the money instead. They did this until his parents found out, he had to go to confession and I guess that was that? No more dancing for him? It there was nothing more to the story? Why even tell me that? I don't know. By that time I was kind of trying to tune it out a bit and just wait for him to stop and take a break."

"Maybe he just likes to hear himself talk?"

"Yeah that has to be it. I mean it was just so many snippets of random things all told in this kind of blah way that just made me not care about any of it. Strange. Oh, and then at the end I find out he is going to be at the party next weekend as well! Please whatever you do don't leave me alone with him again. I just don't think I could handle listening to his early days returning to the US. I just can't do it."

"No problem. We will stick together and stay away from him. Come on, let's get you home."

So yeah, this book bored me greatly. The author likes to tell stories, but for me they didn't go together into a cohesive book. It was just random snippets of things and told in such a way that I really didn't care. Everything was pretty bland and not very happy ever and it just got to be too much. I did see small bits and lines that if I was enjoying the story would have been humorous and would have made it an even better read, but since I just wanted it to be over they were just blips of oh, funny...yeah. I am glad it is over. Apparently a lot of people really enjoyed this story, but it is not for me.


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