Athina Kostner’s Interpretation:

Summary

Frank was born in 1930 as the oldest son of Irish immigrants in New York. In the following years other children were born, but as the little girl Margaret died soon after the birth in 1935, his parents decided to move back to Ireland, Limerick, because of the bad economic conditions. But as they were there they soon understood that it was even worse: the relatives of his mother Angela rejected the father Malachy McCourt because of his Nordic origin and he couldn’t even prove that during the Irish civil war he fought with the republicans, so that he didn’t even get the hoped help as war veteran. The poor family lived in bad conditions, with very poor food and not even a bed for everyone. Their existence was miserable, even more as the father began to spend all their money in drinking. The family often survived just only thanks to the theft of food and heaters. Other two brothers were born before 1940. Due to the war, Frank’s father got a job in an English ordnance factory and went to England, telling the family to send money every month. But after a unique shipping, Frank and the rest of his family didn’t get any other support or information from their father. At this point Frank decided to leave school and to work instead, in order to earn money, the only money, for his family. He worked principally for the post office, were he met a fatally ill girl whom he fell in love with. But he also worked secretly for a woman who was a moneylender, where he formulated and discharged dunning and threatening letters. As he found the older lady dead in her house one day he took some money there to finally make his dream to go back to New York come true; and he did.

Comment

I think this book was beautiful from many points of view: the story, the fact that this is a real story, the way Frank McCourt wrote down his childhood with all these emotions and feelings. He is able to transmit us just only by reading it the pain he went trough and the sad moments he had to live with. I have also noticed his powerful character and his strong feelings, specially for his father and mother. His personality is very special and the fact that he never criticizes anyone makes the book so painful and dramatic. He doesn’t even ever criticise his miserable conditions or all the sad and painful moments in his life. From this book we can all learn to accept the things we have and to appreciate them more. Frank McCourt hadn’t even something to eat or to drink without making an effort, so we could all learn from this boy who never lost the hope and made his dream come true.

© Athina Kostner 2a

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Sara Ferigo’s Version:

The book “Angela’s ashes” is an autobiography of the author Frank McCourt. It began with the date of Angela and Malachy, her future husband. Their first son was Frank and after only one year, he became brother of Malachy Jr. After a few years, his mother became pregnant for the third time by the birth of Eugene and Oliver. Although, Angela and Malachy wanted to have a daughter, and after all his brothers also Margaret came on earth. She immediately became the favorite of her parents, but after only seven weeks, she died. Angela was depressed after this loss, and she didn’t pay attention to her other four kids.

Her husband had no job and the family was forced to return to Ireland, from where they moved a lot of years earlier to went to America. When they arrived in Dublin, Malachy went to the embassy to ask for money but they received it only after telling their story. The soldiers in the embassy decided to put together some money to buy tickets for them for the train to Limerick, the town in which Angela was born. The grandmother of Frank was waiting for the family at the train station and she took everybody at her home despite she didn’t know where to let them all sleep, because she didn’t have enough space for all this people in her house. Frank had to sleep with his parents and brothers in a big bed that was full of mites.

After few weeks, Angela took Oliver to the hospital because he felt bad but she returned at home without him because he died. After Oliver’s death, Malachy became more affectionate with the other kids, although he didn’t stop drinking and for this reason, Angela began to go with him when he went to take the money from the unemployment insurance so that he wouldn’t drink all the money instead of using it to buy food for the family.

The school began for Frank and his brother Malachy, but he wasn’t happy at school because some of his classmates often mocked him because of his American accent. His father had not found a job and the last twin that was alive died because of pneumonia.

After this tragedy, the family moved to another house where Michael was born, but all the economic problems the family had didn’t stop.

The year after, another kid arrived as a member of the family: Alphonsus.

After some time, Frank became old enough to celebrate his confirmation, but this day wasn’t that happy as he expected because he began to lose blood and he was taken to hospital, he had to spend a lot of time at hospital because of a terrible disease: typhus. His father was enlisted in the English army and he had to move to England, but he left his family in Ireland without any money. Because of that, Angela was forced to ask the unemployment insurance. At the age of eleven, Frank got his first job: he helped his uncle in delivering coal. This job was really hard and it provoked him a terrible conjunctivitis. After some time, he had to stop to practice this work because his uncle wasn’t able to continue because of a leg disease. So, he began to write letters for an older woman who wasn’t able anymore to write because it cost her too much effort. This work was pretty profitable and at that time he began thinking about moving back to New York. At the same time he also worked as mailman and during this job he knew his first girlfriend who died after a short time. When the older woman died while he was at her home to write a letter for one of her borrowers, he took some of her money that she kept in the house for using it to return to the US. He took also the book in which she always took note of the money that people had to give her back, so that he could throw the book in the river in order that nobody wasn’t burrow with her anymore.

At the age of sixteen, he had lost his job but he found another one: the delivery man of a factory of newspapers. Here he was able to get enough money to return to the US.

COMMENT:

I liked the book although I only read the reduced version. This story is really sad and touching because a lot of people die before reaching the age of ten.

It’s really impressive how Frank began to be a father for his brothers since he was a little kid because their father wasn’t sober for most of the time and so he wasn’t able to do his job. I also admire Frank McCourt very much because he was able to restart another life in the US, where he want after leaving Ireland.

© Sara Ferigo

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Anna Costa’s Version:

The writer and protagonist of the book is Frank McCourt. He began his memoir with the description of how his parents Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt met in New York City. They both really liked each other, but the problem was, that Angela became pregnant before they were married. This was a disgrace for the whole family of Angela, given they were very religious.

In this period Malachy could not find work in New York City and all the money he earned went into the pubs of New York. So Angela struggled to feed her family and was always on the dole. Her husband stopped drinking after the birth of Margaret but the baby died soon and Angela fell into a deep depression. Angela’s cousins saved the life of the family arranging the return to Ireland for them, but here the things went even worse.

Angela’s mother was not happy to see her daughter back in Ireland with her alcohol addict and irresponsible husband, and four young children but she helped them anyway. Soon Malachy continued his cycle of finding work, drinking, and losing work. Shortly, there was the next disgrace: Frank’s little twin brothers Oliver and Eugene died because of poor living conditions and the lack of nutrition.

The family had to sleep all together on one mattress that was even filled with fleas. Their house flooded so they had to move upstairs and called that room Italy, because it was warm and dry. Malachy was a good father, but in the meantime he was also a bad one: he took time with his sons and told them stories, but he still continued to drink heavily. Soon Angela gave birth to two more sons, Michael and Alphie.

After some years Frank and his brother Malachy went to school, where they had a difficult time because they were “yanks”. Even if Frank later became one of the brightest boys in school and demonstrated exceptional ability for reading and writing.

When he was ten he became ill with typhoid fever and he almost died, so he was in hospital for a long period of time.

During World War II, his father Malachy left the family to work in a British factory and wanted to send home his earnings, but he never did. So the McCourts sank even deeper into poverty, and had to rely on public aid.

When Angela became ill, Frank must take care of the family and had even to steal food and milk from outside Limerick’s richer houses. Then he turned thirteen and did different jobs and by the way he always went to school.

The McCourts had to move in with Angela’s cousin, who mistreated Frank. His mother also began sleeping with him, which made Frank angry, so he moved in with his uncle Ab, where he nearly starved.

However, Frank dreamed of returning to America, the land of his birth, and began to save money from his earnings for his ticket. One night, Mrs. Fineucne, for who he wrote collection letters in the past, died and Frank robbed all the money she owned. Thanks to that he had enough money for his fare and after a departing party he left Ireland for New York.

He took the ship, The Irish Oak and some days later he reached New York, where he started a new life.

My comment:

I think Angela’s Ashes is a beautiful book, which makes you also think about a lot of things. This book taught me, that I have to be more thankful for all the things I receive daily. We all have to appreciate more the little things in our lives, like the possibility to go to school, to have something to eat, to have a family and so many other things, which are obvious for us.

Beside these aspects, the book was very interesting and even if I just read the smaller version I loved it a lot and I would recommend to all the students in my age and also to all the older people.

(c) Anna Costa

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Evamaria Mayr’s Reading:

Angela’s Ashes, written by Frank McCourt, the story of an Irish poor childhood. In the book, the author wrote down his memory of growing up in New York and Limerick in the 1930s and 1940s.

The book begins with the with the pregnancy Frank’s sister in New York, the second of seven children. After the soon death of the much- loved baby, Frank’s Father, Malachy, started to spend his wages on drink. When Malachy felt out of work, the McCourt’s returned to Ireland, with the hope to find the expectation of a better life.

Unable to find work in Belfast or Dublin, the family moved to Angela’s hometown, Limerick.  The family is very poor, they had nothing. Living in a rat-infested tenement with only one bed for all the family and almost no food, made their life very hard.  Later in the book, Frank described the death of his twin brothers, because of cold and hunger. In the meantime Malachy continued to drink and by doing it, he spent all his earned money. So often, Frank’s mother was very depressed.

Finally, Malachy decided to move to England to find a job, to help his four sons and wife, leaving them with almost nothing in Limerick. In the first month, he sent a little money home, but then he started to spend all the money again on drinking.

At the age of ten , Frank’s health was in bad condition, so he had to stay in hospital for months.  There, he had a chance to read, anything and everything. He read a lot of Shakespeare and also a lot of other important poems and stories of the Irish history. He liked it very much to stay in hospital: he could eat how he never had eaten before, sleep in one bed and he finally he could also wear clean clothes.

Once he had left hospital, he also had left school and with just only 13 years he started to work, trying to keep his mother and brothers from starving.

However, the earned money from Frank’s job’s ,was not enough and Angela was forced to find another option to survive with her sons. So, Laman, Angela’s cousin moved in the family. In return of sexual favors from Angela, he offered them a secure place to sleep and enough food. Frank was very confused about the new situation, so often he had a lot of reasons to fight with his mother. On one side he was very disgusted, but on the other side he understood that the family had no other choice to survive.

Since years, his big dream was to move to New York City, to find a good job, but he hadn’t the necessary amount of money.

At the end of the book, Frank earned enough money to move to New York. The end of the book is the most optimistic part: in New York Frank finally would find a good job, and have a better life.

Personal Opinion: I really liked to read this book, even if I read the shorter and easier version, I could follow the story in a very detailed way. I think that it is a really dramatic story. To know that the story is based on true events, it really makes me think of how lucky I am to have the possibility to have a home, where I can eat, sleep and do what I want; to wear clean clothes every day and to go to a very good school. I can really recommend this book and I enjoyed reading it.

© Evamaria Mayr

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Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

by Evamaria Mayr

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Chapter one: Miracles

The Notebook opens with an unnamed narrator asking “Who am I?” Soon the readers understand that the narrator was an 80 year old man, who lived in a type of retirement home.The man wasn’t really happy.He walked down the hall into a room, where there were two nurses . He was visiting his wife who was suffering from dementia. Soon he started to read from a notebook to her, like every day, with the hope that the miracle that had come to dominate his life would once again prevail.

Chapter two: Ghosts

The man started to narrate a story , that happened in October 1946: A young man called Noah, without a job, started to fix up an old house in New Bern. He finished 11 months later. Noah felt very lonely in New Bern- all he had was a dog called Clementine and all he did was read poems, play his guitar or think of the old happy times with his father; But sometimes he thought about his first love, Allie.

On a clear morning and a hundred miles away, the old man narrated, a 29 year old woman, called Allie, with beautiful blue eyes and blond hair wondered if she had made the right decision. The right decision to meet Noah again, after 14-years of separation, to clarify the “never forgotten things”, and to tell him about her engagement with Lon, a very successful lawyer.Lon didn’t know the real reason she had left the following morning because she had made up a good excuse. Once arrived in New Bern, Allie was still unsure about her decision to meet Noah again, until she opened her pocketbook and came to a folded- up piece of newspaper.

 

Chapter three: Reunion

Once Allie arrived at Noah’s place, the old man continued, Noah and Allie kept silent, each one lost in ones thoughts, memories and feelings. Finally, Allie broke the silence and greeted Noah. Allie admitted that she was not only engaged to be married, but that the wedding was in three weeks.

After a long talk, Noah then invited Allie to stay for a crab dinner. Allie followed Noah to the dock. While he inspected the crab cages, Allie inspected the dock and found the inscription “Noah loves Allie,” which was carved in the dock just days before she left, 14 years before.

During the Dinner Noah finally asked Allie why she had never responded to his letters, after that Allie didn’t know what to say, because she never became any letter. Then Allie understood that it was her mother who had hidden every single letter from Noah, because she didn’t want her daughter to be together with a poor boy like him.

Later Allie almost admitted, that she felt forced to come to meet Noah, after she had seen a picture of Noah´s old house in the newspaper. During the course of their conversation, Noah found out that Allie didn´t paint anymore; he was shocked because it was her passion. Noah asked to see her on the following day, and promised to show her a special place. Allie agreed to meet him. At the end of the chapter, the readers understand that Noah still loves Allie, and what happened the summer 14 years ago, was not just a summer romance for him.

Chapter four: Phone Calls

In the meantime, Lon tried to call the Hotel where Allie was staying, but he was not successful. After a few unanswered calls, Lon noticed that something was wrong. Soon he became reflective , especially because he remembered that Allie had spent a summer in the town, she was visiting. Then Lon was thinking, what Allie’s mother had told him years before about her summer romance there.

 

Chapter 5: Kayaks and Forgotten Dreams

This chapter begins whit Allie, who spent her morning with thoughts about Noah and remembered the old times from their summer together. Later, Allie was shopping in downtown and thinking about Lon. Then, Allie went in an Art shop where she bought pencils, paper and colors. She spent the rest of the morning with painting and wondering why she had ever stopped doing it. When she was ready to leave the Hotel to see Noah again the manager told her ,that Lon had called a few times, but she ignored it even though Lon tried to talk to her on the phone two minutes after she had left the hotel.

In the meantime Noah was getting ready for Allie’s arrival, he had prepared the Kayak up to the river, in front of his house.

Chapter 6: Moving Water

Noah was sitting in his chair, drinking sweat tea and listening for Allie’s car to arrive , when she finally got there . Immediately Allie wanted to see the promised surprise, so Noah explained her, that it was a mile up the river, but that they would get wet eventually, because it was about to rain. Allie didn’t care about that, so Noah brought her to the surprise.

Chapter 7: Swans and Storms

Once arrived there, Allie was embraced, hundreds of white swans surrounded the Kayak, Allie fed some of them with bread .It was very magical and beautiful. In this moment Allie realized that she still loved Noah. When they were driving back it started to rain and both got wet. Arrived at home Allie put on some dry clothes of Noah and they shared a drink in front of the fire. Later, Noah admitted to Allie that she was his first love and that he still loved her. And Allie admitted that she had never physically been with another man and that she also still loved Noah. So they spent the rest of the day and the night together.

 

Chapter 8: Courtrooms

This Chapter begins with Lon asking the judge if he could leave his job earlier, because he had to do something very important. The very important thing he had to do was driving to New Bern, so he did.

Chapter 9: An unexpected Visitor

The next morning, the old man narrated, Noah made breakfast for Allie while she slept in the living room. As soon as they had finished eating breakfast they made love again. Around noon someone knocked on the door, Noah opened the door and he stared at a beautiful woman in her early fifties, it was Allies mom Anne. Allie and Noah were shocked by her arriving. Soon Anne revealed that Lon had called her last night to ask about Noah and that he wanted to come to New Bern. Allie spoke with her mother, who handed her out all the letters from Noah as well, before leaving. Despite holding a grudge mother and daughter made peace again.

Chapter 10: Crossroads

Very confused after this, Allie was not sure if she could stay with Noah. So she decided to leave and return to her Hotel. In this chapter, readers understand that Allie loved Noah but there was still something between Allie and Lon, so she had to make a decision. As she left, she gave him a kiss and promised to return. Noah was very sad and thought that she would never come back.

Chapter 11: A letter from yesterday

When Allie was driving back to the Hotel, she started to cry. She didn’t know what do to at this point and when she got her crying under control she decided to open the last letter-it was about how much Noah loved her and how much he thought about her every day. Then Allie, with all the courage she had, went to talk to Lon, who was waiting in the Hotel for her.

 Chapter 12: Winter for two

The story ended there and the old man stopped reading. He closed the notebook, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes. Then he revealed that he had been married for 49 years and said that he would do everything for his wife, although he knew that soon she would pass away. The old man talked about poems and his experiences. Later his wife started to ask some questions:

“How does the story end and which one did she choose? Do you know these people?”

The old man smiled and answered: “By the end of the day you will know”

The old man took his wife’s hand and she asked if he had written the story and he admits he had. He was convinced that this day was a good day. His wife didn’t know who the old man was so she asked “Who are you?”. At this point readers understand the connection with the first chapter, when the narrator asks himself “Who am I”. Finally readers understand that the old man was Noah and his wife was Allie. Noah wanted to remember Allie, by reading their story every day. At the end Allie understood that the old man was Noah and for a moment she remembered everything, the miracle happened. Now the reader knows: Allie chose Noah and they got married. Noah donated the house in New Bern and transformed it in a retirement home.

The night after, Noah wanted to see Allie in her room, he knew that it was prohibited to go to Allie’s room at night, but this time he decided to break the rules. The story ends when both lied in Allie’s bed, held their hands and closed their eyes forever.

 

Nicolas Sparks:

With over 90 million copies of his books sold, Nicolas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. He was born in 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska. He has published eighteen novels and two non-fiction books. Several of his novels have become international bestsellers, and eleven of his romantic-drama novels have been adapted to films, like The Notebook. In 2011, he founded the Nicolas Sparks Foundation to inspire and transform student’s lives though education, curriculum development and live changing international experiences. Today the author lives in North Carolina with his wife and family.

Personal Opinion:

I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. I think that it was really romantic and dramatic. I also liked the way it was written . Sometimes I didn’t understand some words or phrases but in general is wasn’t really difficult. I also saw the film. The story is a little bit different and there are more details. Although I really recommend this book and you should read it, if you haven’t.

(c)  Evamaria Mayr

 

 

 

 

 

The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks