‘Tis is the second and final instalment of Frank McCourt’s bittersweet account of his life as an Irish immigrant in New York. I love this book as much as I love Angela’s Ashes, which is the first half of this very interesting memoir. In ‘Tis, Mr. McCourt continues to chronicle the events of his colorful life on the first day he sets foot on the land of his dreams, America. In this book, we read about Frank’s adventures and misadventures as a naive and awkward young man in New York polishing the floors of Biltmore hotel, being drafted as a soldier and sent to Germany to type reports even though he wanted badly to train dogs, coming back to New York to finish college, and working as a high school teacher when he himself wasn’t able to enter high school.
Frank McCourt is a very engaging storyteller where he is able to make his readers feel as if they were with him while he experienced the tales he is telling. I was very much involved in the story that it was as if I was present when Frank journeyed from New York to Germany and back again to New York. I rode with him in his airplane trip back to Ireland to visit his parents who have long separated. I cried with him in his first heartbreak in America and cheered him on when he finally decided to get married. I sympathized with his efforts to assert authority among the more experienced high school students over his inexperience in teaching. And most of all, I struggled with him as he tried to regain his ties with his mother and father.
If Angela’s Ashes is a depressing and harrowing tale of childhood, ‘Tis is much lighter and funnier, not because Frank did not anymore experience misery or hardship but because the same distant tone could be felt in this book the way he narrated his childhood in the first book. I love how real and honest Frank McCourt is in his narrative, and he doesn’t attempt to sugar-coat his roots nor his struggles to fit in the less stringent and supposedly classless American society. I admire Frank’s determination and hard work to make an improvement on his miserable childhood and the way he pursued education despite being tempted so many times to drop out from college and just earn a decent living. What disappoints me the most is the fact that I have not read a single book mentioned by Frank, especially those books which inspired and intrigued his students. Crime and Punishment, Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, Great Expectations. Boo, I am such a loser.
Aside from being a story about Frank McCourt, this memoir (including the first one) is, I think, dedicated to Angela, Frank’s mother. Angela has also led a very interesting life not only in Ireland but in New York as well. She is a picture of a very tenacious woman and mother and I can just understand how lonely she felt after all her boys had grown up and got married and finally had their own families. Her life is also a story worth telling except that she did not come to the point of having the luxury to write about it. It’s a good thing she had Frank who lived to tell the tale of their lives.
What I find cute (sorry, I cannot find a more apt description) with the two books, Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, is the way they both intertwined from beginning to end. Angela’s Ashes ended with the word “’Tis”. ‘Tis ended with Angela’s ashes being scattered on the graveyard at Mungret Abbey outside of Limerick City, Ireland.
And, oh, right after I finished reading ‘Tis, I did a quick research about Frank McCourt’s other books. I want to read The Teacher Man because I want to know more about Frank as a teacher. In the course of my browsing I also learned that Malachy McCourt, Frank’s younger brother, wrote his own memoirs too as an Irish immigrant in America. Another books added to my constantly-growing TBR. 🙂
11/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Goal.