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  Grade 10 Reviews
  Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Review by: Alex B.
Alberta, Grade 10

Before reading this novel, I used to think of Ireland as just a bunch of green rolling hills and Irish accents, however, author Frank McCourt managed to open my mind to more than this. He introduced me to “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”. Whether it was at the church, the school, St. Paul de Vincent Society, Kathleen O’Connell’s or up in “Italy”, McCourt gave an up close and personal view of the Ireland he grew up in. Throughout his novel he reflects upon his childhood and teen years sharing the best of his rough and humorous experiences, some of which left me questioning whether to laugh or grieve.
Frank is a likeable character because of his true view of the world and persevering attitude, this really makes the story fun and easy to read. The adventures he shares make you feel like you were a part of it, such as when he and his friends climbed a rain spout to peek at girls, when he skipped class to run around the countryside or his life-long journey to America. Frank’s adventures and his humorous outlook on his encounters kept me flipping the pages.
The characters that we hear of most in this book, father Malachy, mother Angela, and Frank’s brothers are the most important characters in the novel. Malachy, a drunk, had a hard time providing for his family resulting in a series of unfortunate events. Despite the lack of money and food in the McCourt family, mother Angela managed to keep most her children alive and struggled to keep herself alive. She worked so hard her whole life in the home, but luckily relatives and Frank were there to help take a load off her back. Frank loved his mother and did anything and everything to try and make her happy. The ashes from the comforting Woodbines she smoked regularly also represent the ashes of her scrabbled, rough life. Her husband, Frank’s father, was unfortunately never around and it forced Frank to grow up quickly, looking after Angela and his brothers. His great deal of maturity and responsibility gave him many opportunities in life and made him an enjoyable character to read about.

Other characters in Angela’s Ashes, such as Seamus, Uncle Pa and Theresa played an influential part in Frank’s life. Each character brought out a certain trait in Frank, such as determined and loving, that would have otherwise been hard to notice. By the time I finished the novel I barely knew the characters by their real names, it was interesting to get to know them on such a personal level.

Frank worked his whole life to someday return to America so his family could have a better life. The hardships he and his family faced and the story Frank told all made for one good book. It showed that with determination and a got-to-laugh attitude you can overcome any obstacle life throws at you. Later in his life, Frank became a member of the National Arts Club and received the Award of Excellence from The International Center in New York. In 1998, he was honored as the Irish American of the Year and in 2002 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario. McCourt died May 2009 of cancer.

Frank did such a good job telling his life story. The events that occurred were interesting and meaningful. Angela’s Ashes was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time because of the description, humour and reality in the novel. It started out slow and confusing, especially McCourt’s writing style. But after a chapter or so it really starts to come together and becomes easier and easier to read. I had a hard time putting the book down (which is usually easy for me, a non-reader!) and I eventually found myself reading every spare moment I had! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great read.

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