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Angela's Ashes glows with grim humor

By Mark Heyder

Angela's Ashes is an illuminating story that I was given on Christmas day and kept reading because it was too good to put down. This story, which won a 1997 Pulitzer Prize, mixes humor with the reality of poverty and depression. This autobiographical account tells of the trials and tribulations of Frank McCourt and his Irish mother, Angela. She suffers from the loss of three of her six children, and the constant disappointment of her husband Malachy. He is a deadbeat father who spends his earnings drinking his life away in the pub, and who involves the rest of his family in his drunken episodes.

McCourt spends part of his childhood in America; his mother gives birth to a daughter, and to twins who later die of tuberculosis and fever. McCourt 's baby sister Margaret dies of tuberculosis and is never buried after being transferred to a medical clinic in New York City, Where the family lives at the time. Later on in the novel, Angela loses a set of twins to typhoid after the family moves from New York to the desperation of the lanes of Limerick, Ireland.

There are several humorous anecdotes in the novel. The funniest scene is when McCourt delivers a telegram to Mr. Harrington, an Englishman who becomes quite demented by the death of his wife Ann. Harrington lays the body of his dead wife upon her bed in his house. Harrington becomes very drunk, and in his sick, sad state of mind, he invites McCourt to watch Ann as he goes to the pub to get a bottle of whiskey. McCourt, a Catholic, realizing Ann is a Protestant and feels sorry for her. Not wanting Ann to go to hell for what she is, he baptizes her with sherry in place of holy water. When Harrington returns he is shocked and angrily says, "What the bloody hell are you doing? Get off my, wife you wretched Papist Twit. What Primitive Paddy ritual is this? Did you touch her? Did you? I'll ring your scrawny little neck!" The exchange expresses the friction that is present in Irish society between pro-English Protestantism and pro-Irish Catholicism. Both of these religious factions have fought over church dogma for centuries.

I enjoyed reading this memoir because it drew me into the experiences of the author. The language of the book is simple, and the author recalls the memories of his youth with ease. I didn't have a problem reading it because he doesn't stuff it with any big words or phrases. It makes it easy to read such a novel, no big words to work through and no phrases to step over. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading or needs a good book for a report.

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