6 reviews

Angela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt

Published: 1999-05-25
Paperback : 368 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 6 members
A Pulitzer Prize–winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela’s Ashes is Frank McCourt’s masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.

“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 ...
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Listen to an excerpt read by and a Conversation with Frank McCourt recounting "a miserable Irish childhood." This account won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

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Discussion Questions

Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:
1. Countless memoirs have been published recently, yet Angela's Ashes stands out. What makes this memoir so unique and compelling?
2. Discuss the originality and immediacy of Frank McCourt's voice and the style he employs -- i.e., his sparing use of commas, the absence of quotation marks. How, through a child's voice and perspective, does McCourt establish and maintain credibility?
3. Ever present in Angela's Ashes is the Catholic Church. In what ways does the Catholic Church of McCourt's Ireland hurt its members and limit their experience? How does the Church protect and nurture its followers? What is Frank's attitude toward the Church?
4. McCourt writes: "I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland." Was this your impression of Frank McCourt's father? How can Frank write about his father without bitterness? What part did Malachy play in creating the person that Frank eventually became?
5. Women -- in particular mothers -- play a significant role in Angela's Ashes. Recall the scenes between Angela and her children; the MacNamara sisters (Delia and Philomena) and Malachy; Aunt Aggie and young Frank; Angela and her own mother. In what ways do these interactions reflect the roles of women within their families? Discuss the ways in which Angela struggles to keep her family together in the most desperate of circumstances.
6. McCourt titles his memoir Angela's Ashes, after his mother. What significance does the phrase "Angela's Ashes" acquire by the end of the book?
7. Despite the McCourts' horrid poverty, mind-numbing starvation, and devastating losses, Angela's Ashes is not a tragic memoir. In fact, it is uplifting, triumphant even. How does McCourt accomplish this?
8. Irish songs and lyrics are prominently featured in Angela's Ashes. How do these lyrics contribute to the unique voice of this memoir? How does music affect Frank's experiences? How do you think it continues to influence his memories of his childhood?
9. Frank spent the first four years of his life in the United States. How do his experiences in America affect Frank's years in Ireland?

Suggested by Members

How do you feel about his dad? Want he the worst character or person in the boy's life? If not who was?
by ElizLynch (see profile) 01/23/14

Discuss the humor evident in the book
by FTessa (see profile) 01/27/11

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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by bridget c. (see profile) 02/07/20

by Karen C. (see profile) 05/18/19

by Sheila C. (see profile) 02/26/19

by Gina R. (see profile) 01/21/18

by Heidi S. (see profile) 08/17/17

by Maria M. (see profile) 04/11/16

  "Angela's Ashes"by Elizabeth L. (see profile) 01/23/14

Sad but with a happy ending. Well written

  "Wonderfully heartbreaking"by Denise M. (see profile) 08/24/13

  "The author's narrative rings true in this sad, funny, remarkable story of an impoverished Irish childhood."by Patrice C. (see profile) 07/20/12

Frank McCourt brilliantly and poignantly captures the voice of a child growing up in Limerick's slums. Whether he's writing the observations of a 4 year old who must quickly become the "responsible" family... (read more)

  "Angela's Ashes"by Amie O. (see profile) 03/22/11

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