Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
Reviewed: December 17, 2008
By: written and read by Frank McCourt
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
I don’t return to a book very often in this column, but the unabridged
audio version of Angela’s Ashes is worth a mention. We had the abridged
four tape audio version and enjoyed it immensely, but when I went to listen
to it again on a road trip last spring, the third tape broke and I could not
splice it. Wanting to replace this excellent reading, I went online and managed
to find the unabridged CD version second hand for somewhat less than that list
price shown above here.
It’s a much longer production, about twice the length of the one I heard
first, and the additional material makes sense of a number of little things
that I had always wondered about when I heard the story before.
McCourt begins with these words: "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood
is the miserable Irish childhood. Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic
childhood." Nearly everything he records in his memoir goes to reenforce
that notion, and yet he also manages to coax laughter and a sense that the world
can be made right somehow from the same material.
Residents of Limerick, Ireland, have complained that he is too hard on their
city, but the part of it where he spent most of his childhood would not have
given him much of the good to see. And in fairness to McCourt, he is as hard
on himself as he is on everyone else, and he is often the butt of his own humour.
This comes across much more strongly in the full version of the book, where
young Frankie punishes his own spirit constantly for his anger, his persistent
and pernicious “self-abuse” and for all the ways in which he fails
those around him.
This is a sad, funny and triumphant story and well worth a second visit. And
by the way, it takes the better part of two trips to the city to hear it all.