December 3, 1997

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Author Affiliations

Boston University School of Medicine Boston, Mass


by Frank McCourt, 364pp, $25, ISBN 0-684-87435-0, paper, $13, ISBN 0-684-84267-X, New York, NY, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1996.

JAMA. 1997;278(21):1793-1794. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550210091052

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This memoir, the story of Frank McCourt's Limerick childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. As depicted, the innocence, good humor, and love of language and family rising above the squalor of the author's childhood contribute to the book's success. McCourt's vivid recall of the health problems that affected him and those around him will interest physicians, especially in the areas of public health and the history of medicine.

The two tragedies of the McCourt family were the father's alcoholism and childhood deaths. Frank's father, Malachy, had been dropped on his head as a child and was supposed, at least by the family of Angela, Frank's mother, never to have been quite right afterwards. But Malachy's main problem was his alcoholism. Malachy was not abusive when he was drunk—at least, not directly. But he drank the family into semistarvation