By People Staff
October 21, 1996 12:00 PM

by Frank McCourt

The poor Irish-Catholic childhood has become a kind of cliché, but McCourt, in his first book, has constructed a splendid memoir from his family’s ruins. So desperate were the immigrant McCourts that they moved from Brooklyn back to Ireland during the Depression, when Frank was 4, but they fared no better in Limerick. He saw three of six siblings succumb to diphtheria and pneumonia and watched as his father, Malachy, drank away the dole money they needed for food. Telling tales of constant hunger and humiliation—be it begging at the butcher shop for a pig’s head for Christmas dinner or tearing down walls of their flat for firewood—McCourt takes the voice of a smart, scrappy boy. He is both funny and forgiving. “The happy childhood is hardly worth your while,” writes McCourt, who sailed back to America at 19. This miserable one is. (Scribner, $24)