Angela's Ashes

Dad and Paula gave me this book for Christmas one year and I read it in 2008.  I had never heard of it before, but it seems to be a fairly popular book and has won numerous awards.  It's the story of the author's challenging childhood in Ireland.  You can't help but appreciate the life you have when looking at the upbringing some of these people faced.  Extreme poverty, parents with drinking problems, absent parents, lack of government assistance, hunger, no work, death of family members, frequent illnesses etc. I wonder about my own Irish ancestors and if they had similar experiences.  The author writes the way the people in the book speak - with thick Irish accents, so it takes some time to get used to the new words, speech pattern and missing letters in words.  But it gets easier and adds to the overall feel of the book.  Despite the multitude of hardships the author and his family faced, he maintains a sense of humor throughout.  He goes into great detail about various childhood experiences and I'm always curious how people can remember exact details and conversations that took place so many years ago.  I can't help but wonder if they're using their imagination to fill in the gaps.  I would recommend the book, but it's not a must-read in my opinion.  A bit slow at times and depressing, it's also filled with humor and is a great insight into what life was like for a poor Irish family in the 1930s and 40s.

The book begins - "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 hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

 "People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all - we were wet."

A little Irish humor - "Hey, Paddy, do you know the only part of the pig the McCourts don't ate? The only part they don't ate is the oink."

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