Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17 - Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Angela’s Ashes is a memoir by Irish author Frank McCourt, and tells the story of his childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

I really didn't know anything about this book when I started it. Somewhere in the back of my head I've had the 'Have to read that one' feeling and I think I may have thought it was about a Jewish family, the holocaust, etc...not a poor Irish family. Where that came from, I don't know. lol

The writing style was annoying at first, hard to get used to, but I got over it. I thought it would be more, I don't know, factual...? More of a timeline to keep track of things...? But it's a memoir, not a biography, so I got over that too.

I liked this book. It's very depressing and many times had me lost in thought, wondering how people can really live this way. I can't remember names offhand but the one family that was even worse off than the McCourts...had me trying to imagine, what do you live for? What do you get thru the day for? When there is nothing, no food, no money, no clothes, no soap, water, bathing, rules, discipline, healthcare, entertainment...what, WHAT gets you thru the day? You wake from your cold, hungry, filthy sleep to pace around your bare, filthy room and stare at your bare walls. Perhaps you sit outside or wander the streets for the day, only to return to your pitiful, condemned home to stare at the walls until you fall into a cold, hungry, filthy sleep again.

I realize this is a memoir, and it is written as the memories were. This means there was probably tons actually going on in the adult world all around Frank that his little kid memories never knew or understood. What I don't understand though is why it's called Angela's Ashes. Ok, so it often mentions her staring blankly into the ashes when there was nothing left around her. But is she supposed to be like this strong woman, the guiding force in young Frank's life? Are we suppose to feel for her because she was somehow the thread that held them together and kept them going? She sacrificed so much to give her family what little they had? Are we suppose to *like* her? Cuz I didn't feel any of that, didn't see any of that, and did not like her at all. For as horrible as Frank's father was, the slacker loser alcoholic, I felt for him far more than I ever did for Angela. I cried when he visited Frank in the hospital, cried when he left that time at Christmas. It was sad to realize, much later in the book, that he really was gone for good...and you kinda catch yourself wondering, 'hey, just when did we hear from him last?' It was sad when Frank was older and slapped his mother, but it was sad that Frank had come to that point, not that his mother had been slapped.

The part where he walks the streets on his days off before leaving for America is sad too. It reminded me of the book Petals on the Wind (or was it in Flowers yet?) when Cathy goes back into the attic. Even for as horrible as times were, that is where your memories are. It all becomes a part of you. Very bittersweet. I wonder what it was like for Frank even later in life, how often did he go back there? What was it like when he had plenty of time and distance put between himself and those early days? I know there is another book but I don't know if I'll read it.

I have not seen the movie yet but I have watched the trailer a couple times. That too seems to give an impression that Angela is this strong wonderful character. Did I miss something?

So I just finished this book a couple days ago and was Googling to find more info like old pics or whatever happened to the rest of the family, and I find there was quite some controversy surrounding the story. Some people saying it's horribly exaggerated, some saying he made his own family better than others, some saying he's trashing everyone and everything around him and giving it all a bad name. Suddenly I'm wondering if I've been suckered. As horrible as it is, I want this all to be true.

And now I'm also reading the Frank McCourt is gravely ill, not expected to live much longer.

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