Friday, March 6, 2009

Ireland is a sad, sad place

And so was New York in the 1950's and 60's, but not quite as bad.  This is the lesson I learned from this week's Books of the Week:


This is an important lesson, because I visited Ireland once, and I didn't see the sadness.  Also, it was important because I started "Angela's Ashes" thinking it was about the Holocaust, and I think we all know by now that, while I find the Holocaust really, really horrible, I'm about done with learning about it for now.  I don't think I can get more sad about that.  Luckily, this book was, as I have mentioned, about how sad the Irish were, around the same time.  

These two are memoirs that are basically directly in a timeline together, so make sure you read "Angela's Ashes" first, or you might not have quite the basis in sad Ireland that you need to understand sad New York.  Anyway, Frank McCourt grew up about as poor as is humanly possible, as proven by the fact of several younger siblings dying of poverty-related illness, and him subsisting on nutrition found in fish and chips containers left on the street.  I don't want to give away too much, but pretty much every hopeful moment that is going to drag them out of crushing despair ends in tragedy, but it's still a fun read.  I promise I don't take pleasure in the misfortunes of others.  Mostly.  

Also, it's probably not revealing too much to say that the exception to the crushing despair and tragedy formula applied above involves Frankie going to New York and, while not "making it big" at least "making it well-fed and sheltered from the cold," which is a giant step up.  There's a third book in this series that I haven't read yet, so maybe that's when he becomes a Pulitzer-Prize-Winning author and buys a second home in Connecticut, as the book jacket reveals.  

Anyway, the style is not very like, but the stories as they play out over multiple books are reminiscent of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," with even more poverty, but less sexual assault.  That's the best I can do for reviewer-y comparisons.  Take what you will.


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