My mother's ashes

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The ashes of my mother (English original title: Angela's Ashes ) is an autobiographical novel by Frank McCourt from 1996, which tells of the childhood and youth of the author.


Frank was born in New York in 1930 as the eldest son of Irish immigrants . Another four children are born in the next few years, but after the girl Margaret dies shortly after she was born in 1935, the parents decide to move back to Limerick, also due to the Great Depression . It doesn't look any better there: His mother Angela’s relatives reject his father Malachy McCourt because of his Northern Irish origins; Furthermore, he cannot prove that he fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War , so that he does not get the hoped-for help as a war veteran.

The family can find shelter in shabby slum dwellings, but their existence remains extremely poor, since the father, once he has found a job, drinks most of his weekly wages; Otherwise she is dependent on the meager social assistance, which is hardly sufficient to survive. Frank's brothers Oliver and Eugene died within a year of returning to Ireland, but two more brothers were born by 1940. The family suffers great hardship, only in exceptional cases does the family get food or heating means through theft of the children.

Because of the war, Frank's father got a job in an English ammunition factory, but apart from a one-off transfer, he received no support. Frank, who is plagued by diseases and infections again and again, finally decides to drop out of high school and instead take a job. a. as deliverer for Irish Post and Eason's, a large Irish chain of book and magazine stores.

On one of these deliveries, he met a terminally ill girl with whom he had his first sexual experience. He also works secretly for a private moneylender, on whose behalf he successfully drafts and delivers warning letters and threatening letters. One day he finds the moneylender dead in her apartment and takes some of the money there with him in order to be able to realize his long-cherished dream, namely the passage back to New York. The book ends with the arrival of the transport ship in New York.

Narrative style

The narrative style in My Mother's Ashes consists of a mixture of a naive child's view and a distant, sometimes humorous language, which together often creates a tragicomic mood. The meaning of the title is not entirely clear; Only in the follow-up work Tis (German title: An all-round great country ) that follows immediately , McCourt tells at the very end how he and his eldest brother Malachy, who both ultimately made it to success in America, brought the ashes of their mother, who has since died, over the 1985 Scattered graves of a cemetery in Limerick in the air.


With the book, the author won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize . The novel was made into a film by Alan Parker in 1999 as My Mother's Ashes .

Reaction to the book

While the book found a large readership and was awarded prizes, there were criticisms, especially from Limerick, that McCourt had in his memoirs described the city and the time in an inaccurate and offensive manner.


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