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Frank McCourt


A Memoir

This is the sequel to McCourt's wonderful first autobiographical volume, Angela's Ashes. McCourt has returned to the USA and the book describes his experiences there. Arriving in New York, he works in a number of dead-end jobs, until he is called up and becomes a soldier stationed in Germany. Released back into civilian life he obtains a degree and becomes a teacher. He marries and has a much-loved daughter, but the marriage fails. All this is described with his usual deadpan humour; for once the overworked adjective "bittersweet" seems exactly right.

To embark on a sequel to a successful book is always something of a gamble. McCourt uses a great deal of direct speech, and I did find that I missed the chorus of Irish voices that characterized the first volume. But his ear for New York dialect is as good as for the Irish voices of his childhood, and Irish characters are not wholly lacking, because McCourt is part of the large expatriate Irish community and he goes back to Limerick on holiday. The book works well in its own right, but it will be irresistible to readers of Angela's Ashes, who will be anxious to know what happened to McCourt when he survived his amazing Limerick childhood. I get the impression that the two books were conceived as a whole, because the implication contained in the title of the first volume reaches its conclusion only at the end of the second, when McCourt's mother dies and is cremated and her ashes are scattered in the graveyard outside Limerick.

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2001).
%T 'Tis
%S A Memoir
%A Frank McCourt
%I Flamingo (HarperCollins)
%C London
%D 2000 (1999)
%G ISBN 0-00-655181-5
%P 495 pp
%K autobiography
%O paperback edition
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