I enjoyed this book but it was more difficult to get through than Angela’s Ashes. Whereas McCourt’s tale of growing up in and escaping from the poverty of Limerick’s slums was tragic and moving, I found myself getting frustrated with Frank’s near-alcoholism ruining his life.
You would think that after the constant disappointment he experienced with his father’s choice of ‘the bottle over the babies’ he would have been more wary of alcohol rather than falling into the same habits and screwing up his own life.
‘Tis also suffers from a lack of the humour that shone through the misery of Angela’s Ashes. I’d also have liked to read more about Frank’s teaching experiences, particularly any positive experiences but I’ve noticed he released another book in ’05 which looks like it will address this more. There also was a surprising lack of story regarding his married life and break up, almost entirely limited to her telling him off every time he didn’t show up due to drink.
On the positive side McCourt gives a good account of how it was for poor immigrants struggling to fulfil the American Dream at the time, whether they’re Irish, Puerto Rican or African American, and also the habit people have of telling him about their own Irish roots every time they hear his accent. As he says, he’ll always be American-Irish, never just accepted as an American. The account of his time in the army was also interesting although riddled with expletives. Frank is remarkably candid about his dealings with refugee prostitutes (although how he could even contemplate it so soon after visiting the ovens of Dachau is totally beyond me!)
For me the story peters out disappointingly at the end but it was well worth the read. The writing style is identical to Angela’s Ashes (including the lack of a lot of punctuation and speech quotation marks, from an English teacher!) and as with that book I found my own thoughts had a peculiar Irish lilt for a good half an hour following completion of the book which to me illustrates the charm of McCourt’s writing rather nicely.