Cover of the book 'Angela's Ashes' by Frank McCourt.

Poor Irish Catholic childhood

'When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood. Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.'

This is how the beautiful novel 'Angela's Ashes' written by Frank McCourt about his childhood in the thirties and fourties of the previous century starts out. A penetrating and witty account of his life in bitter poverty. With a father who couldn´t stop drinking. All his week´s wages go to the pub. As does the fiver from granddad for the birth of a new baby brother.

Brothers and sisters perish in the cradle; there is never enough food, the family lives in a house so damp that they have to move upstairs in winter. Downstairs they call Ireland; upstairs is Italy. At school they are taught obedience and Catholic virtues. One of the masters tells one of Frank’s class mates: ‘You are supposed to learn catechism and obedience. You are not supposed to ask questions. There are already too many people on this earth who ask questions and look where that got us and if I find another boy who asks questions, he will have to answer for it.’ The boys know only too well what that means: corporal punishment.

After many a disease and other plights Frank succeeds at realizing his dream: emigrating to America.



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