If you?re looking for some light bedtime reading, then this book is definitely not for you. In fact, I doubt if there?s a single ?light? line tossed into the entire story. Based in Limerick, this is a slice-of-life story based very much on truth ? but not a cheery slice of life! Angela?s Ashes has been victim of a lot of negative opinion from Irish countrymen because of its dark, dreary and not-very-complimentary picture of life in Ireland not too long ago, but I believe such negativity stems not from any criticism of the book itself, but rather a refusal to admit that things were, for some people, pretty miserable, to the extent that nobody really wants to admit it.
The story spans the growing years of Frank McCourt and the hardships he and his family suffered throughout. This family had no lucky breaks. This book will make you cry more than it will make you smile, but as a true semi-historical novel, it gives a vivid and extremely realistic account of working class life. The father drinks any money earned, including the children?s allowances; there is not enough money for new shoes; pride stops Mum from applying for state help; children die and Mum has a thoroughly miserable existence, driven only by her love for her children. It screams of resilience, of maternal and sibling love, of children?s strength in the face of horrors most of us can thankfully only imagine.
Most of all, it reminds us, albeit reluctantly, that poverty and misery are not only things of ?other continents?. It is far, far too close to home.