Angela's Ashes: 'Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood
is the miserable Irish childhood', so writes Frank McCourt
in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel. This is a story of
extreme poverty and hardship that is not for the faint
hearted. Indeed it sometimes traverses the line between
entertainment and enlightenment.
This is a story of the fight against poverty. The McCourt
family moved back from America where they had gone to make
a life and returned to Limerick city at a time when Ireland
had little to offer them. When disease, hunger and
malnutrition takes his brothers and sisters from him, young
Frankie and his brother Malachy grow up little realising
that life has more to offer than old potatoes and bolied
pigs head for Christmas dinner. The family were crammed
into a tenement slum. The upstairs room was 'Italy', warm
and dry. Downstairs was Ireland, wet and cold. The rats,
the death, the shared latrine and the smell of poverty and
neglect pervade evey paragraph of this powerful book.
If young Frank is the hero of the story then it is difficult
to regard his father as an anti-hero. His drunkeness and
eventual abandonment of his family are upsetting and yet
we still cannot quite condemn him. Frankies mother, Angela,
is regarded with little emotion by the author and the
description of her struggle and humiliation are only very
occasionally tinged with anything approaching pity.
This typical tale of an Irish childhood is now the subject
of a major motion picture directed by Alan Parker with
Robert Carlyle and Emily Lloyd in the lead roles.
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