By Frank McCourt
I have a rather weird relationship with all things Irish, and it's all my dad's fault. He's Irish himself and since birth I've had that drummed into me in a myriad of ways. My parents wedding bands are claddaghs, my name is a bastardisation of Ceilidh (mum wanted to spare me the difficulty of having Australian teachers attempt to pronounce that one) and my sisters share equally Gaelic names. I did Irish dancing as a child, wore 'kiss me I'm Irish' badges to school on St Patrick's Day and the music played in our house was almost exclusively Irish folk songs and pop-bands ( U2, The Cranberries, The Pogues). While all these elements helped shape my personal identity, I always felt like it was rather superficial, I never actually knew anything about my family in Ireland or the history they had there. My dad is extremely closed off when it comes to talk about anything set further back than a few weeks, and because his father died before I could meet him I've always had this rather weird and vague relationship with Ireland, almost like an orphan who only knows what their parents names were and a blurry memory of what they looked like. It is for this reason that anything that focuses on Ireland or the Irish really strikes a chord with me.
Angela's Ashes was probably the first non-fiction I read about Ireland that wasn't a history book or book of Celtic mythology. In fact I suppose the reason I loved this book was not so much because of its connection to Ireland the place, but to the Irish mentality and character. It has been awhile since I've read this memoir although it has been sitting on my bookshelf calling to me for quite awhile now. Even so, I remember it being a book of eloquence and remarkably able to find the beauty in the most depressing of incidents. It wasn't an easy read for me, memoirs rarely are since I know that what I'm reading is fact albeit with a potential for embellishment. I can read about a character living in poverty and feel for them and perhaps even be reduced to tears, but in a memoir it pains me when I read the real trials people have had to live through. As much sadness as there is in this book, truly it is a tale of hope and endurance and an example of that fighting Irish spirit I've read so much about.