Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt I wanted to love this book--so many whose opinions I respect adored it beyond words. I actually saw the film and remember liking it a lot. At first I thought I would love it. The book is McCourt's memoir of his miserable childhood in Ireland. With an emphasis on misery. The first pages really pulled me in. It had the kind of prose that makes you think, "this is a great book." It reads likes a novel, is crafted like a novel. But the book has lots of modernist touches such as long passages reporting the speech of people--without quotation marks and sometimes without even paragraphing--minimalist punctuation, use of the present tense, parts that could be called stream of consciousness... I admit this is a style I find off-putting, in spite of it being rather appropriate for a book set in the land of James Joyce. But I think it was the sheer numbing misery, combined with the creative non-fiction embellishments that eventually really got to me. McCourt began by writing, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all.” Given what he related, I did too. And it's not very credible as non-fiction given McCourt purported to remember in detail events in his early childhood fifty years later--which along with the consciously literary style undercut for me a lot of his credibility, making me wonder how much of the account was exaggerated. (Those who knew the McCourts in Limerick also fiercly dispute a lot of his stories.) I know for a lot of people it was precisely the style they loved. I know for a lot of people, despite the dire poverty related, they found this book uplifting rather than depressing. They found lots of humor in it rather than finding it relentlessly grim with people (characters?) impossible to like. I detested Frank's father--and his mother wasn't a prize either. And I found Frank more bitter and whiny than charming. I've long given up trying to give objective ratings. Maybe the book deserves its acclaim, but if anything, my rating is generous. I didn't find it "OK" as befits a Goodreads two stars. I disliked it. I started it thinking it a joy to read but I quickly found it a chore to read.