Angela's Ashes Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Angela's Ashes

The narrator, Frank McCourt is born in Brooklyn but returns to Limerick, Ireland at the early age of four with his brother Malachy and his parents, torned apart by the death of their baby daughter, Margaret.
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Their father never keeps a job longer then a few weeks for he "has the desease " of drinking, as the author himself describes it.

He is not able to support and provide for his family. They are forced to return to Ireland where they live in dirty filthy places, rarely having anything else to eat and drink than fried bread and tea.

The characters are remarkably sketched out by Frank who looks back to his poor childhood without anger and with so much tolerance, forgivness and understanding.

The review of this Book prepared by Valeria Toma

Born in New York but returned with his family to Limerick, Ireland when very young, Frank McCourt grew up in severe poverty with his father Malachy drinking whatever rare wages he earned, and mother Angela and brothers and sisters scrounging whatever they could from welfare agencies and the streets. The Great Depression and the Second World War provide only a distant backdrop to a depressing but occasionally hilarious and always beautifully told story of poverty, aspiration, and death. We see young Frank wrestle with the Catholic Church and his own awakening sexual awareness, make up Irish dances to show his family after skipping his lessons, find various ways to make a little money and scrabble for food. This grinding, appalling tale of bare survival won the Pulitzer Prize as well as becoming an international bestseller.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

In "Angela's Ashes" Frank McCourt is a young boy who grows up in the slums of Limerick. His father is a drunk and his mother tries hard to keep the family together. His brothers and sisters are dying around him from diseases and hunger. After a hard life of begging for food and dealing with health issuse, he finally moves to America and starts a new life!
The review of this Book prepared by Emily Kane

Frank is growing up. His family moves from America back to Ireland where his mother was born. Frank and his family struggle to survive. Frank's brothers and sister die from pneumonia. This upsets his family and causes his mother to become depressed. Frank's father is on the dole. But instead of giving the money to his wife to spend on food and clothes for the family, he goes to the pub and drinks all the money away. Frank wants to get out of Ireland and go back to America. He has several jobs such as a telegram boy, letter writer and paper delivery boy. He saves all his money. At the age of 21, he buys a ticket aboard a boat, sailing to America.
The review of this Book prepared by Alice Keating

Frank McCourt takes us back to his heartrending, impoverished childhood. Born in Brooklyn then raised in Ireland He tells us of the degradation of being poor and hungry, the loss of beloved siblings and the alienation from his drunken father. This is the story of a family's struggle through the depression era with just enough hearwarming moments to melt your heart.
The review of this Book prepared by Heather Huckfeldt

The story of young Frank McCourt and his struggle to escape the poverty around him is both depressing and uplifting. Depressing in the graphic detail of the squalor the McCourts live in, but uplifting that Frank maintains his dream to leave and build himself a better life. Frank McCourt's biography is well written and contains great humour if you can see the bleakness. A must be for anyone moved by human tragedy and the plight of the child in a time of suffering.
The review of this Book prepared by Shel

Frank McCourt uses a stream-of-consciousness style to dilever the details of his poverty-stricken childhood in Ireland. Rife with humor and touching anecdotes, the biography takes you into the world of Limerick, Catholicism, and alcoholism.
The review of this Book prepared by Nathalie Bryant

To put the depth of this book into a few words is impossible. I have read and then re-read this book over and over....four times right in a row. I recommend this book to all who will listen to me. I read many books, and this one has touched me like no other. I want to go to Limmerick now, I want to talk on and on with Frank. I love this book! I have no fancy discriptive narrations, I simply love this book
The review of this Book prepared by Cindy

This is a fine, fine story told by a man looking back on his childhood. His view is sharp, unblinking and longing for things to have been different. His voice is strong, his memories are harsh, yet tinged with the warmth of love and hope. I heard thee Audible version. I did not read the print version. In 13+ hours Frank McCourt reads his own book. In 13 hours we hear/see/feel and know dire poverty, a longing to belong to another or better class of poverty. We hear the pain in the young boy's voice as he tries to make sense of his wayward, loving, funny, supportive father. We hear the pain of the man-child recognizing his mother's desperate straits.

We learn about all the players in this comedy he called his childhood. All the while, the big pink elephant dwells in the family's midst, some side-stepping it, some succumbing to it.

We suffer for his mother, for his lost siblings, for the loss of a real father. We rejoice in young Frances' accomplishments -- stealing, lying, and generally getting over -- just to survive.

Yet the main theme of this tremendous treatise on dysfunctionality is that of Frank's father, Malachy. We love him, hate him, pity him, loathe him and try to understand why Angela tolerates it all. And through young Frankie's burning, sick eyes, we see a desperation that cannot go away.

The children grow up not questioning their lot in life, though Frankie's thoughts are ever clear and demanding. Somehow through all the neglect and borderline abuse that Frankie survives, he is polite, kind and knows his place.

He is a true Catholic, reared in the old ways of repentence, shame and forgiveness. He can sin and when he is able to, confess and then be redeemed, knowing he will slide again and repeat the cycle.

The peripheral characters in his story are as strong and shaping as his absent father and unconscious mother. They shape him. Alcoholism abounds in his world and it too shapes him.. without saying it, it is the omnipotent pint that shapes his views, his mores, his goals.

Frank stumbles into adolescence wiht a bang. He is ill, his eyes are horrific, but his sight is clear, his voice is strong and his will to "go to America" prevails.

America represents his infancy, when there was hope in Angela's heart, when Malachy reluctantly claimed Frankie as his son, yet lived his "Northern Irish" life as if Frankie was not there.

America beckons young Frances whose real first name is NOT Frances, because life in Ireland was so, so bad. During his years between 14 and 19 he longed for and saved for America, knowing America would change his life. He was a minor criminal, far beyond stealing to survive. He was able to save money and eat and do all sorts of things separate from his hungry mother and siblings and felt no remorse.

Already he was becoming Malachy's offspring. Frankie would do whatever he had to do or wanted to do.. to pursue his dream --- in this case, America.

Frank's father Malachy wanted only enough money to drink and declare his love of country. Malachy never wanted a family; his ready made family came as a result of a momentary dalliance with young Angela in America. Though they had six children, Malachy never accepted his role as father or provider.

Angela reluctantly took on her role as bearer of children, but not one time, not once in the entire book did I hear the words love from either parent or any child.

This was a life of obligation. Children were born, children died. Sometimes they ate, sometimes they starved. No matter how little money or food (the babies had sugar water instead of milk), Malachy Sr. had his pint(s) of Guiness.

While Frank studies his childhood with a poignant view of his pains and privations, he has warm, loving memories of moments with each of his family members. He loves the time in front of the cold fire place with his father, who is fatherly at those morning meetings. There are the moments on the stairs of their first apartment, the long walks in the country stealing apples and milk, all those wonderful things he recalls.

But Frank's eyes look for America as his salvation. Ironically, his eyes are his major physical weakness. We wonder at the end… what about his eyes?

Frank does get to America and is welcomed by a great event that proves right off the boat that America is the land of opportunity.

In summary, it is a long, longing and profound look at a life, a country, a time of life and a perspective that rings true and truly harrowing all at the same time.

I came to cheer Frankie on in his exploits, while wincing in discomfort as I realize that these are the traits he will take with him into adulthood and to America. How honest will Frank be in his lifetime, will he become an American criminal too?

These are the elements that make for good stories, strong characters that create a “need to know” in the reader.

Throughout the book I came to realize that had I read this book when I was a young parent, my children would have turned out differently today. I would have been more restricting, given them less and taught them more. Frank's family got by on virtually nothing -- and nothing within a community of little more than nothing. Someone described one of their apartments as resembling Calcutta.

They were poorer than dirt and they had no way out.

Read this story with joy and anticipation. The pay-off is slow and agonizing, but in retrospect it is there.

The review of this Book prepared by Patricia G. Kurz

The story tells of the experiences of an impoverished Irish family during the depression and World War II era. It centers around the thoughts and actions of the firstborn son of this family and how he struggled to overcome his bleak and often depressing existence to emerge a thoughtful, caring, and successful member of society.
The review of this Book prepared by Nell Marshall

Frank McCort discovers at an early age that life is unfair and sometimes very cruel, but also (as years progressed)he saw the changes it brought upon his family and the world around him. He tries from an early age to discover what his role would be in the ever changing world as well as within his family. Through laughter and tears he lets us have a glimpse of the "world" he knew. At times loving and hating it in one instance.
The review of this Book prepared by Travita Bromiley

Angela's Ashes is riveting for the sheer horror of escalating human tragedy. Just rented the movie and listened to my 11-year-old son repeat over and over, “just when you think it can't get any does”. The book is far more graphic and not at all for the faint of heart. Malachy Sr., who loves his children desperately, is incredible in his alcoholism but even more incredible in his confused indifference to the suffering of his family. Angela is simultaneously pathetic and heroic possessing all the destructive sarcasm of her pretentiously proud mother and sister with an ability to do what is necessary to ensure her survival along with 4 of her 7 children. Denial kills 3 children and a marriage, while the want of the most basic human contact turns a mother to incest. Miraculously, Frank survives and even thrives, driven by the things that his father did not possess, common sense, the gratification of a hard days work, sobriety, and I would argue literary genius.
The review of this Book prepared by James P. Crowley

Chapter Analysis of Angela's Ashes

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Plot & Themes

Kids:    -   general coming of age story Ethnic/Relig. of subject (inside)    -   Irish Gender/Class story?    -   story of lower class Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Kind of living:    -   general poverty story Family, hate    -   Yes Struggle with:    -   Father The difficult family member    -   blames for things that go wrong Family, love    -   Yes Special relationship with    -   mother Ethnic/regional/gender    -   Yes

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   teacher/professor Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   Irish


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Ireland Small town?    -   Yes Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   like laughing Graphic sex in book?    -   Yes

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