Some New Trend

The Irish Catholic Childhood :: Angela’s Ashes by Kevin Wilder

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“The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live. My brothers are dead and my sister is dead and I wonder if they died for Ireland or the Faith.”

Angela’s Ashes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Frank McCourt. This memoir is the first in a three-part series, and chronicles the eldest son of an Irish family, and his interpretation on their difficult first years. The firsthand accounts of growing up in the impoverished city of Limerick are fascinating, from abusive school instructors, to being hospitalized for contracting typhoid, to the boy’s first pint with his uncle.

Though the title comes from McCourt’s mother, his father seems to play the more prominent role in his development (albeit in negative ways). Year after year Malachy drinks the family’s money away at local pubs, and comes home to tell his boys they should die for Ireland. He eventually enlists in the military, joining a defence plant in Coventry, England. This leaves the family anxiously awaiting a check that will never come.

There’s also more death and desperation. Many have regarded this book as a landmark of the “misery lit” genre. But I thought it did well to refrain from ever becoming a “woe is me” story. The book comes to an abrupt end when young Frankie goes to America—the culmination of several years of hard work.

AA is often sad and touching, frequently funny, and (please forgive me for saying it) at times bland and boring. I listened to the abridged audiobook on a trip, and found the author’s dialect to be soothing (it was also a treat to hear him actually sing each song inclusion). His voice won at making the writing come to life, and the already childlike, conversational-tone gives the story universal accessibility.


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