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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood [Hardcover]

Alexandra Fuller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Feb 2002
In 1972, when Alexandra Fuller was two years old, her parents finally abandoned their English life and returned to what was then Southern Rhodesia and to the beginning of a civil war. By the time she was eight, the war was in full swing. Her parents veered from being determined farmers to being blind drunk, whilst Alexandra and her sister, the only survivors of five children, alternately take up target practice and sing Rod Stewart numbers from sunbleached rocks. This memoir is about living through a civil war; it is about losing children and losing that war, and realizing that the side you have been fighting for may well be the "wrong" one.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (8 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330490230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330490238
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 206,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fuller’s African childhood. Fuller regards herself "as a daughter of Africa", who spent her early life on farms in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia throughout the turbulent 1970s and 80s, as her parents "fought to keep one country in Africa white-run", but "lost twice" in Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is a profoundly personal story about growing up with a pair of funny, tough, white African settlers, and living with their "sometimes breathlessly illogical decisions", as they move from war-torn Zimbabwe to disease and malnutrition in Malawi, and finally the "beautiful and fertile" land of Zambia.

Central to Fuller’s book is the intense relations between herself and her parents, a chain-smoking father able to turn round any farm in Africa, her glamorous older sister Vanessa, and the character who sits at the heart of the book, Fuller’s "fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, surprisingly witty and terrifyingly mad" mother.

Fuller weaves together painful family tragedy with a wider understanding of the ambivalence of being part of a separatist white farming community in the midst of Black African independence. The majority of the book focuses on Fuller’s early years in war-torn Zimbabwe, with "more history stuffed into its make-believe, colonial-dream borders than one country the size of a very large teapot should be able to amass." This is the most successful dimension of the book, as Fuller describes growing up on farm where her father is away most nights fighting "terrorists", and stripping a rifle takes precedence over school lessons. The sections on Malawi and Zambia are more prosaic, but this is a lyrical and accomplished memoir about Africa, which is "about adjusting to a new world view" and the author’s "passionate love for a continent that has come to define, shape, scar and heal me and my family." --Jerry Brotton


As unflinching and honestly told as any White African dares write... ultimately ...a love letter to a continent and its people who will never reciprocate. -- Richard E Grant, author of Withnails

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 21 Nov 2003
By Ams
I loved this book. I have been fascinated with Africa for some time and have read quite a few books about growing up there (autobiographical and fictional). However after I bought this book it sat on my shelf for sometime. For some reason I kept putting off reading it as I wasn't in the mood for another book on the subject. What a mistake. It was different from the other books I'd read and drew me in much more. I was immediately hooked and could not put it down.
Right from the start, when the author talks about getting softly drunk with mother the night before returning to boarding school, and then smoking with her father while he commisertes with her because she won't be able to smoke at school, you know you are in for something different. And that was just the start of it.
I was also fascinated by the fact that the author was born in the same year as me, so all along I was comparing her life to mine and being astonished at how different it was. A very hard life at times, but I was also envious! I have been to Zimbabwe, as well as Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, but only on fleeting holidays. However I felt very drawn to the place and this book made the tie seem stronger, as though there was an actual reason for it rather than just my imagination.
Also, by the end of the book, I felt as though Alexandra Fuller was a friend. I was upset to loose touch with her and would love to know more about how she is adapting to life in the US as I really cannot imagine her there.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An African Childhood Everyone Can Share 26 Mar 2003
This is an outstanding book. I have never encountered anyone who so accurately articulates what it was like to grow up in Zimbabwe; it's like reminiscing with a good friend. Some may find the references she makes to everyday life incomprehensible and the racism unpalatable, however, you cannot help but be moved by the honesty of her writing and the love she feels for her family and the country that lies between the Limpopo and the Zambezi. This is a must read for anyone who grew up in Zimbabwe, has visited the country or can find it on a map.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 6 May 2003
My wife bought this book for me as she knew that I had been brought up in Rhodesia in the mid-1960's, just before Alexandra was born.
Like her, I too was born in the UK and my family had emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1963. I saw the breakup of the Federation Of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at the end of 1963, and was in Salisbury (now Harare) for Unilateral Declaration of Independence on November 11th, 1965. I can honestly say that the whole period were my happiest times as a child. Sad for me that I had to leave with my family at the end of 1965 because of the imposition of economic sanctions and the concomitant demise of Rhodesia Air Services which my father navigated for. I still believe that if U.D.I. had never happened I would be living there now.
Alexandra's account of her life takes place after I had left the country. Strange then that it would evoke the most extraordinary emotional response in me, nearly forty years on from when I left there. Reading this book brought back many, mostly happy, memories for me that I had either forgot, suppressed or repressed. It brought back my childhood to me - so vividly that I will always be grateful to the author.
I choose not to go into too much detail of the war that went on as I was not there. Suffice it to say that in late 1965 when a State of Emergency was declared following riots in an African township, my parents went outside into the garden and drank gin and tonics, saying "What state of emergency?", so distant, and therefore protected and insulated from reality they were. In the detail of Alexandra's account, one can learn what it was like to be a child on the front line in the 1970's, with her father regularly going on patrol to hunt down 'terrorists' in the bush.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping and beautifully written 11 Feb 2003
By A Customer
Alexandara Fuller's memoir of her childhood in Africa is, first and foremost, an incredibly honest and loyal portrait of childhood in general....some of the feelings of young Bobo ring so true it almost hurts....Intelligently, she shies away from sensationalism and cheap emotions (for which there would be ample scope), in favour of a humane and empathic prose that never judges.
It is also a fascinating story of 'White Africa' and of the mixed motives that have led Europeans to hang on to it for so long. Once again, she refuses political judgement on her characters' motives, on their latent racism and debatable ethics. She prefers to tell us about her own coming of age and her coming to terms with the complex and contradictory reality that is "Africa" for a white girl. She's no naive: some of her characters are frankly disgusting. She just has other things to tell, that's all, and that's fine, because she's 100% honest about it.
Ultimately, the book is a declaration of love for Africa and for her family: love born out of much suffering and therefore, i think, so much more honest and longlasting.
If you are looking for a political novel, then you better stick to Nadine Gordimer: this is essentially a private story, and you will identify with it no matter where you've grown up, as long as you HAVE grown up.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book!
Published 1 month ago by Matt King
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Gift for my friend.
Published 1 month ago by RunnerBeans
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Unusual read
Published 1 month ago by Janisp
5.0 out of 5 stars Grest
One of the most amazing books I have ever read
Published 1 month ago by DOCT J J MCCARTHY
5.0 out of 5 stars very easy to read and likeable prose throughout
Fabulous book...took me right back to the days of Rhodesia in the 70s...could smell, feel and taste Rhodesia through the pages.... Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. Charlton
5.0 out of 5 stars What a joy to read!
What an incredibly beautifully written story about an incredibly beautiful part of the world. Read it in 3 afternoons flat! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rosetwine
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read
Takes a bit of time to get used to the writer's style but after a few chapters I was gripped by the detail of the book and Fuller's ability to capture y
Published 2 months ago by Ross Whibley
5.0 out of 5 stars Very much enjoyed this book
Recommended for anyone with an interest in Zimbabwe.
Published 2 months ago by Private
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful
Quite simply, one of the best books I have ever read. And its simplicity and almost accidental humour born out of its frank honesty about her life growing up with such an... Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Cullen
5.0 out of 5 stars Get the AudioBook
Page turning story of a life in Rhodesia. Get the audiobook. Atmospheric. Beautifully read by Lisette Lucat. Highly recommended. A.Reader
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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