Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes (1996) presents a startling account of the author’s impoverished childhood in depression-era New York City and Limerick, Ireland. The most remarkable aspect of this narrative is the endurance of McCourt’s sense of humour throughout years of starvation, disease, and horrendous living conditions. Our reader spoke to me via Skype from Dublin about his connection to the book, the representation of Ireland within the narrative, and the importance of acknowledging the darker parts of a country’s history.



“It gives such a contrast to the Ireland we live in now…Growing up and going to school you’re still expected to do your communion, go to mass every Sunday, and that’s dying out now, or that’s not as important now. When I was at school I remember getting in trouble for not going to mass or not knowing what the gospel was…So to a certain degree [our generation] might remember that, but even my parent’s generation, they might remember some sort of poverty…Then maybe their parents would remember a time in Ireland when you couldn’t afford to go to school so you didn’t, and then you got a job at twelve and did that for the rest of your life, and you brought home the money and you provided. There were kids who died of consumption, died of starvation. Those times were so different and I think it’s good to read to get the context in your head, and kind of see where you come from because it’s too easy to look at a history book and just gloss over facts and dates and figures.”

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