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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness [Paperback]

Alexandra Fuller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2011
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness tells the story of the author's mother, Nicola Fuller. Nicola Fuller and her husband were a glamorous and optimistic couple and East Africa lay before them with the promise of all its perfect light, even as the British Empire in which they both believed waned. They had everything, including two golden children - a girl and a boy. However, life became increasingly difficult and they moved to Rhodesia to work as farm managers. The previous farm manager had committed suicide. His ghost appeared at the foot of their bed and seemed to be trying to warn them of something. Shortly after this, one of their golden children died. Africa was no longer the playground of Nicola's childhood. They returned to England where the author was born before they returned to Rhodesia and to the civil war. The last part of the book sees the Fullers in their old age on a banana and fish farm in the Zambezi Valley. They had built their ramshackle dining room under the Tree of Forgetfulness. In local custom, this tree is the meeting place for villagers determined to resolve disputes. It is in the spirit of this Forgetfulness that Nicola finally forgot - but did not forgive - all her enemies including her daughter and the Apostle, a squatter who has taken up in her bananas with his seven wives and forty-nine children. Funny, tragic, terrifying, exotic and utterly unself-conscious, this is a story of survival and madness, love and war, passion and compassion.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 085720128X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857201287
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,264,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Despite its tragic backbone, this book has much more humour than its predecessor. Fuller gives her mother a droll, laconic voice that makes it a pleasure to read. Her achievement is to have turned her mother's complicated, gallant life into a deeply felt memoir with perfect comic timing' --Sunday Times

`Nicola, Fuller, the last of her kind, booms and bosses her way through these beautifully written pages, a comic-tragic patriot of no clear nationality permanently out of place in the place she refuse to leave, at home in her own homelessness. Her parents, Fuller accepts, belong to a generation that was selfish and short-sighted but, as he puts it, "most of us don't pay so dearly of our prejudices, our passions, our mistakes. Lots of places, you can harbour the most ridiculous, the most ruining, the most intolerant beliefs and be hurt by nothing more than your own thoughts' --Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969 and in 1972 she moved with her family to a farm in Rhodesia. After the civil war there in 1981, the Fullers moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. She now lives in Wyoming and has three children. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told story of great courage and love 17 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is one of my favourite books. Told from the innocent perspective of a child, it is funny and sad and above all, honest.
I approached Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness with eager anticipation and have to admit, found the first few chapters disappointing. I felt that Alexandra Fuller had compromised the vivid characterization of her eccentric wonderful mother, in order to please her and make amends for what the family called the "awful book". But I was wrong.
Tree of Forgetfulness is more serious than Dogs because it is related by the grown up Alexandra, or Bobo as her family call her, so lacks the naivety of the child. From this adult, knowing viewpoint, it is somehow all the more heartbreaking. The story of her parents' courage, resilience and humour in the face of insuperable tragedy in the harsh, punishing Continent of Africa - Kenya during the Mau Mau, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) during the war of independence, is told with the generosity and warmth of a devoted and loving daughter.
"Nicola Fuller of Central Africa" always wanted a writer in the family to recount her "fabulously romantic life". Her life may not have turned out as romantically as she had hoped, but it was full of adventure and love and she couldn't have wished for a better "scribe" than her own daughter to relate it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb 30 Sep 2011
Hilarious, sad, poignant - but unputdownable. A clearly more mature, thoughtful work than Dogs, (which was excellent for other reasons), Cocktail is also a very moving, sober and heartfelt tribute by a daughter to her mother and will have universal appeal, even to those who don't know Central Africa.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I (as did many others) loved Fuller's first book and was fascinated by Alexandra's mother. This book is a biography of Nicola {Alexandra's mother} in much greater detail as it starts from Nicola's childhood told from the perspective of her daughter (Alexandra). A great tale of a life lived to the full; not an easy life, but one lived passionately by a brave and proud lady. A wonderful book written by an excellent author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, charming, touching and irresistible 27 Dec 2011
By Noel
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful little book, the third written by Alexandra Fuller on her family's life and experiences in Africa. In this book Alexandra's mother Nicola Fuller is the centre-piece and everything else is set in the context of her mother's vivacity, eccentricity and bouts of depression. Her mother's family origins in the Isle of Skye makes it all the more surprising that Nicola Fuller should have Kenya in her blood.

She left Kenya soon after independence when the life they had known was gone for ever and amazingly they moved to Rhodesia and soon found themselves on the frontline, literally, in the war which eventually brought Mugabe to power. After a spell in Derbyshire the family returned to Africa, Zambia this time, and that is where this story finishes, on the family's banana and fish farm on the banks of the Zambezi.

A wonderful story, very well told.

See Alexandra Fullers other books Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood; Scribbling the Cat;both set in the African bush and the painful but gripping story of The Legend of Colton H Bryant which is set in Ms Fuller's adopted homeland of USA.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pass it on 11 Nov 2011
By moth
I loved" Don't lets go down to the dogs ", so much i brought 8 copies for friends . I have read all her books so far (as i hope there will be more ) I read this book in one day , my life just had to go on hold . Alexandra writes so beautifully , about such harsh things ; people landscapes snakes , but always without pity , its just how it is . i feel more alive when reading her account of Africa . She is for me a brilliant story teller .
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightful and heartbreaking 3 Oct 2011
By jackal
The star of this book, probably to her surprise, is the author's mother, 'Nicola Fuller of Central Africa' as she calls herself who had described Alexandra's previous work about her childhood as an 'Awful Book'. White settlers are not usually sympathetic figures but Nicola and her husband Tim have lived in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia and built succesful farms and businesses. They have survived war, the loss of three children and dispossession with courage and tenacity. I devoured the book in one sitting to find out what happened next but will go back and read it again more slowly and to enjoy Alexandra's writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK'ish but didn't make as big impression as DLTDGOT 15 April 2013
It has been some time since I read DLTDGOT but this book didn't make as big impression. The focus is on the life of Alexandra's mother which although fleshes out the character encountered in the original book and provides deeper context, probably does not warrant a book in itself. The book relates a colonial life from Scotland, to Kenya to Rhodesia then post-Zimbabwe exile in Malawi and Zambia. Although difficult to explain despite being a raciest alcoholic, Alexandra's mother seems like a good fun character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Alexandra Fuller, well known for previous biographical accounts of growing up in Rhodesia and of returning to Zimbabwe as a grown woman - namely Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood and Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier - returns to the same topic, this time from the perspective of her parents.

While she certainly harvested some furore from her mother with her first book - often referred to in here as 'that awful book' - this did not stop this next attempt and even if some of the events covered are the same, you will get a very different perspective here - namely of an adult daughter looking back at the life of her parents from their perspective, rather than from the perspective of a growing child.

The book certainly does an excellent job of portraying the indefatiguable spirit of her parents, who took everything coming their way - from insurrections, lost children, hardships and poverty, to civil wars - and remained optimistic and in love with a continent that so often tried them so thoroughly.

If the tone was different the book could read as a tragedy but the author really manages to distill the uplifting aspects and has done a great job of bringing readers closer to life in Africa as it once was for white settlers, as well as of creating a loving monument to her parents.

As such well worth a read, even if Africa is not your particular area of interest and up there with the author's earlier books, as well as works by Peter Godwin (
... Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good buy
Excellent. Rhodesia as it was.
Published 8 days ago by J. Charlton
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
This is a besutifully written book ... you get a real sense of her mother as a person as well as the conflict in their relationship. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Geni O
4.0 out of 5 stars content is fine but in general I dont like these 'instant' new ...
content is fine but in general I dont like these 'instant' new books. From now on I will always buy second hand as you get a proper book
Published 20 days ago by paul fenton
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
Well this was a gift which I bought for my friends daughter and I'm not sure what review to offer. Amazon should set up an option to account for that.
Published 1 month ago by RunnerBeans
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
Very good book. Would recommend!
Published 1 month ago by Private
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful and heartfelt book
A beautifully written evocative book full of wonderful images of Africa but also very poignant family moments. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marina Marangos
1.0 out of 5 stars I didn't like this book at all
I'm sorry. I just didn't like this book. I was even determined that I would finish it because I had paid for it, but I never finished it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by DD
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!
A fascinating account of ex-pat life in Africa in the last century and first part of this. A great read about amazing characters, and a potted history of the politics and wars in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Susie Davidson
4.0 out of 5 stars Safe Ground
Alexandra Fuller is in her best territory writing about family myths and memories from Africa. This book has plenty of humorous narratives that could only happen in Africa. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Nico
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous
One of the best books I have ever read. Told so many friends to read it. Very funny and heart warming. Well done. Please do another
Published 6 months ago by Lauretta Ridley
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