Angela’s Ashes

Angela’s Ashes

Infobox Book
name = Angela's Ashes
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Frank McCourt
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
subject =
genre =
publisher = Scribner
release_date = September 5, 1996
english_release_date =
media_type =
pages = 368 pp
isbn = ISBN 0684874350
preceded_by =
followed_by = 'Tis

"Angela’s Ashes" is a memoir by Irish author Frank McCourt, and tells the story of his childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

Plot summary

Born in Brooklyn, New York City on August 19, 1930, McCourt is the eldest son of Malachy and Angela McCourt. He is joined by brother Malachy in 1931, twins Oliver and Eugene in 1932, and a sister, Margaret, in 1933. After the death of his sister Margaret when she was only a few weeks old, his family moves back to Ireland, where his younger twin brothers both die within a year of the family's arrival and where Frank's youngest brothers, Michael (b. 1936) and Alphie (b. 1940) are born.

Life in Ireland, and specifically life in Limerick City, in the 1930s and 1940s is described in all its grittiness. The family lives in a dilapidated lane of houses that regularly floods, and share one outdoor toilet or lavatory with all their neighbours. Although his father teaches the children Irish stories and songs, he is an alcoholic and seldom finds work (when he does he spends the paycheck money in the bars), and so they live on the dole (welfare) or charity while the father spends days drinking in bars. For years the family subsists mostly on bread and tea. (Divorce was illegal in Ireland until 1997).

Frank's father finally gains employment during World War II at a defence plant in Coventry, England. In this situation, he finds it easy to drink away most of his wages, and only once does he send any money back to the struggling family in Ireland. Their mother is destitute, as there are not many jobs for women at the time, and must beg for help from the Church and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Sometimes Frank and his brothers have to scavenge for lumps of coal or peat turf for fuel, or steal bread to survive. Angela's sister and her widowed mother begrudge any help they have to give her, because they disapprove of her husband, mostly because he hails from Northern Ireland and therefore he has a strange accent and what Angela's family calls 'the odd manner.' The McCourt family are continually afraid of going to hell if they do not pray or confess often enough as specified by the church.

In the damp, cold climate of Ireland, the children have only one set of ragged clothing each, patched shoes and no coats or boots. Frank develops typhoid and is hospitalized. Later, he gets a job helping a neighbor with leg problems deliver coal and develops chronic conjunctivitis. The family is finally evicted after Frank takes a hatchet to the beams to burn for winter heat and the ceiling collapses in on them. The family is forced to move in with a distant relative who treats them poorly. Teenage Frank starts work for the Post Office as a telegram delivery boy, and also works for the local money lender writing threatening letters to the people who owed her money, as a means to save money and is finally able to realize his dream of returning to the United States. The story ends as he sails into Poughkeepsie, New York, to begin a new life at the age of nineteen.


McCourt followed "Angela’s Ashes" with two more autobiographical works: "'Tis" and "Teacher Man".

Awards and recognition

"Angela’s Ashes" won several awards, including the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and the 1996 National Book Critics Circle Award (Biography).


Many in Limerick have claimed that McCourt's recollections of the city are inaccurate. [ [ ANGELA'S RUBBLE; McCourt house at the centre of a pounds 70,000 | Sunday Mirror | Find Articles at ] ] [ [ - Angelas Ashes Walkng Tour, Frank McCourt, Limerick ] ] In an interview in 2000, Richard Harris took McCourt to task about his attitude toward Limerick and the citizens of the city. [ [ - Richard Harris Angela's Ashes Frank McCourt Interview ] ]


The memoir was adapted to a feature film "Angela’s Ashes" in 1999, starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle. It was released by Paramount Pictures (in the US) and Universal Studios (outside the US through its joint venture with Paramount, United International Pictures).


External links

* [ Book Discussion at the Glendale Community College English Department website]
* [ Reading Group Guides on Angela's Ashes]

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