Angela's Ashes and 'Tis by Frank McCourt

>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Angela's Ashes was firt published way back in 1996 but I've only managed to read it recently. It's a memoir of the author's difficult and poor childhood in Limerick, Ireland. It's very sad to read such hardships, and I cried a few times, for example when his sister and brothers died. I had 'Tis with me as well, so I was fortunate to be able to continue reading about Frank's life in his next book. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy 'Tis as much as I had enjoyed Angela's Ashes. In the first book, the author, as a boy, seems to be strong and brave, intent on helping his family survive and get out of the poverty. But in the second book, when he starts having a more comfortable life, and his family is much better, he seems to be a bit confused and at times almost 'aimless'. It is not my intent to judge him, it's just that I felt, his story became an ordinary life story in the second book. Even the part about his teaching career wasn't very inspiring. There were several instances when he shone as an inspiring teacher, but in general he seems quite ordinary in his struggles dealing with uninterested students and low wages. I guess I wouldn't be looking for the third book Teacher Man.

The other thing that ticked me off a bit while reading both his first and second book is the details he went through when describing his 'excitements' and 'adventures'. I thought, what would his wife and ex-wife be thinking and feeling when reading those? On the positive side, I guess it helps me to understand how easily boys get excited and hence appreciate more on how Islam manages this, by giving guides on covering (aurat), behaviours, boundaries etc. I also gain further appreciation of Islam's ruling against drinking alcohol, reading about how the father's drinking habits had such an impact to his family. It's difficult to understand how a father, supposedly the head of the family, could drink all his wages away and let his family starve and beg.

All in all, I'd still recommend Angela's Ashes as a good read. Borrowing a sentence from the Wiki link above, "Despite all the hardships, many passages of the story are told with wry humor and charm."



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