Alexandra Fuller won worldwide attention, popular acclaim, and critical accolades for her memoir of her childhood in Africa, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. This engaging follow-up explores Fuller’s parents’ childhoods and charts the trajectories of their lives through all the British couple’s experiences in war-torn Africa.
Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller's mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. Fuller interviewed her mother at length and has captured her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.
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Great by both ear and eye
Fuller's white British-born parents loved their life in colonial Africa until the war for independence forced them to leave Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, but not Africa. Their story reads like a pioneer saga, full of reckless courage and passionate relationships set against a backdrop of natural beauty and political turmoil. In this second story of her childhood, Fuller, who now lives in America, paints a vivid picture of her inimitable mother, who was as devoted to her Scottish heritage as to the African land she farmed with her husband. If only Katherine Hepburn were alive to play her on screen! We see the mother's British-colonial sensibilities and experiences viewed through her daughter's more critical but loving eyes. I kept wanting to take a break to learn more about the Rhodesian civil war, but I couldn't leave the book. Both Amato, the reader (her some-kind-of-British accent charmed my American ears), and Fuller bring the story and characters alive, balancing tragedy with humor. After listening to this, I began reading Fuller's earlier memoir, "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" on my Kindle, and then picked up "Scribbling the Cat," about a white African soldier, in old-fashioned book form. Reading in print helped me appreciate Fuller's lyrical style and colorful slang ("Cat" has a glossary in the back), but I plan to listen to them all. In any format they're all terrific--you learn, you laugh, you are moved. What more can a reader ask?
"West with the Night" (the first audiobook I ever listened to--I was hooked) and Jeannette Walls' "Half-Broke Horses"
Her skill with reading dialogue, her light touch with humor, and her ability to shift tone subtly, without melodrama, during heavier parts.
- Janet Tarasovic