First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
I have come across First Impression Friday through Krsitin Kraves Books. It piqued my interest so I decided to start my own First Impression Friday series. For this week’s post, I’ll be writing about Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. This is the last book in my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. Yes! After a very long reading year, I am on my last book of the said list! Haha. Before I get carried away, I’ll start with my first impressions of the book.
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive 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, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy – exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling – does nurture in Frank an appetite for one thing he can provide: a story, Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.
Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors – yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness.
When I started reading seriously around my high school senior year, I rarely ventured into the world of nonfiction. There was just a different sense of belonging in stories that were figments of the author’s imagination. Although they might be based on actual events, fiction books generally give me a different sense of reality. It is perhaps this reason why I have subconsciously avoided reading nonfiction books.
Things changed last year when I bought and read Dave Eggers’ The Monk of Mokha. The book enlightened me on the different sense of reality nonfiction books offer. As a result, I made a vow to read at least one nonfiction book a year. For 2019, I included Angela’s Ashes on my Top 20 Reading List to make sure that I fulfill this vow. Come to think of thing, I nearly didn’t make it.
What was evident from the onset of the story is the Irish author’s knack for writing. And I mean not just Frank McCourt but every Irish author whose works I’ve read. You can feel it reverberating on the surface. It is unfathomable and something difficult to explain but you can feel, and see that it is there. It is something that is distinct which keeps on reminding me why I love reading Irish works.
The story started in grim conditions. The quintessence of Irish family setup that one often reads or hears about was palpably depicted. There is the typical drunk father, the destitution, and the Irish’s Scheherazade qualities. McCourt’s writing thoroughly captured these miserable conditions. McCourt’s powerful writing also captured the different qualities of his family.
The writing is wonderful but something just ticked me off. Why do Irish writers don’t use open and close quotation to distinguish conversations. Sometimes I wonder if what I am reading is the author’s thoughts or one of the character’s. I have to reread to make sure whose voice it was. I had the same challenges with Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Oh yeah, I’m reading Irish authors back-to-back for the first time I guess.
I am not sure if it is just a misconception or I am just reading it wrong. I thought that the story is mostly about Frank’s mother as it was her name in the book’s title. So far she was written as an afterthought, more like a caricature. To be fair, Frank’s father tend to be an afterthought as well. The dominant voice is Frank’s. But then again, this is his story and I might just be putting too much meaning into the book’s title.
Nevertheless, I am looking forward to how she gets involved in the author’s life because his father’s insights and ideals comes across as more solid. I am hoping to finish the book before Christmas but with the holiday rush, I think that is quite unattainable. Well, let’s see.
Happy reading everyone! Happy holidays to all as well!