Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: classism, cultural and religious bias, and poverty.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
I received a copy of Angela’s Ashes as a donation for the Little Library I started, and was intrigued enough by the cover touting it as a bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I decide to put it aside and read for myself first. Since I’ve been a little busy, I decided to read it via audiobook instead. Hoopla had a copy ready to go, so I checked it out, knowing it would be a quick read at 4.5 hours long.
The novel is a memoir based on the author’s childhood growing up in Ireland and then his immigration to the United States in his late teens. As he introduces his story, McCourt states,
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived it 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.”
Right off the bat, the narrative is dripping is satire and dry humor. From there, McCourt continues the story of his childhood, from making ends meet and putting food on the table when there was none, to hard work and what it means to be an Irish catholic, to living through typhoid fever. He also talks about typical boyhood memories, such as sibling squabbles, learning about girls, and grown up discussions with his parents. This includes helping search for his drunken father in bars for his mother as a young man.
Despite the more serious themes of Angela’s Ashes, such as classism, cultural and religious bias, and poverty, there’s still plenty of humorous tales to offset the heavier points in the novel. I absolutely adored listening to the author narrate his own memoir, and especially enjoyed his accent. I thought I would have trouble with my listening comprehension because of how quick he spoke and his thick accent, but in truth I had no trouble understanding him and ended up hanging on every word. He also reminded me a bit of Robin Williams in the way that he gave each person in his novel a distinct voice, which was very entertaining. It was fascinating listening to what it was like to be a Irish immigrant working to get to the United States.
Though Angela’s Ashes was published in 1996, this backlist novel is still relevant and riveting. I highly suggest the audiobook for the full effect of McCourt’s tale, but any way you can check out this novel, please give it a read!
TL/DR: Angela’s Ashes is a novel about growing up as an Irish Catholic immigrant. It is entertainingly humorous despite some heavy content topics.
Read it? Yes.
Recommend it? Yes, but to mature audiences.
Buy it? I would say borrow it first, and if you like it then buy it.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- Tomorrow’s Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
- Someone Knows My Name by Laurence Hil