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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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