The Book Club: Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

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A final book review of our Book Club reads of 2018… let me tell you more about ‘Angela’s Ashes’ from Frank McCourt!

Angela’s Ashes – Summary

This is the summary I could read on Goodreads:

Imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion. This is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

“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 Pulitzer Prize winning 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”

Angela’s Ashes – My thoughts

I loved this book, which is based on Frank McCourt’s childhood. The style of writing is fluent and I never got bored with the story…

Now about this story… it is so harsh, depressing and heartbreaking! But as Frank McCourt tells this story as his own 4-5-6 year old self, it never gets too deep. He keeps it ‘light’ as he writes it through the eyes of a child. Even though this child undergoes sincere poverty, misery and hunger, it never loses its naivity. And that is exactly the tone of this book: naive, innocent, childlike without it being childish mind!

This book reads like a train and even though Frank has a miserable childhood, it is a hopeful read as he tries to build up a better life for himself.

Apparently there is sequel to this novel, which I will probably read the coming year or so… I really want to know what this Frank McCourt made out of his life even after having such a tragic start!

Aangela’s Ashes – The Book Club

These are some of the questions we discussed:

  • The Catholic Church is omnipresent in this book. In what way is the Church failing its members? What is Frank’s attitude towards the Church?
  • Frank McCourt writes his father is like the Holy Trinity, meaning his father has three sides. Do you agree? Why do you think Frank McCourt can write about his father without any resentment?
  • The title of the book is ‘Angela’s ashes’. What do you think is the meaning of this title?
  • Even though this story is about misery, poverty and tragic losses, this novel is not tragic. How did Frank McCourt make this into a triumphant and positive story?
  • There are a lot of women in this book. Which part do they play in Frank’s life?
  • Did you think this book was a novel rather than an autobiography? Why? Why not?
  • Frank McCourt says that a happy childhood doesn’t give you much honour, this in contrast to a miserable childhood. What do you think he wants to say with this statement? Do you agree?
  • What did you think about Frank’s mother? Could she have done something differently to have another (better) life?

Angela’s Ashes – Score

Personally I gave this book 8/10. The overall score was 8/10 which made this book the best of 2018!

Overall scores of the books we read in 2018

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Below I list all overall scores of the books we read in 2018 for our book club. Some scores may differ from the overall score you see in the reviews, but after reading all books some of us have changed scores…

Personally, I gave ‘the solitude of prime numbers’ the highest score (8,5/10).

1. Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt: 8/10

2. The solitude of prime numbers – Paolo Giordano: 7,9/10 (review)

3. The Nightcircus – Erin Morgenstern: 7,7/10 (review)

4. The diary of a young girl  – Anne Frank: 7,4/10 (review)

5. Het Smelt – Lize Spit: 7,1/10 (review)

6. The only girl in the world, a memoir – Maude Julien 6,1/10 (review)

7. Be my knife – David Grossman 6/10 (review)

Next time

In the next book club blogpost, I will tell you all about the books we have chosen to read in 2019… can’t wait to share this with you!

Love, Kathleen

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