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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (Center Point Platinum Nonfiction) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Alexandra Fuller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2011 Center Point Platinum Nonfiction
When the ship veered into the Cape of Good Hope, Mum caught the spicy, heady scent of Africa on the changing wind. She smelled the people: raw onions and salt, the smell of people who are not afraid to eat meat, and who smoke fish over open fires on the beach and who pound maize into meal and who work out-of-doors. She held me up to face the earthy air, so that the fingers of warmth pushed back my black curls of hair, and her pale green eyes went clear-glassy.

“Smell that,” she whispered, “that’s home.”

Vanessa was running up and down the deck, unaccountably wild for a child usually so placid. Intoxicated already.

I took in a faceful of African air and fell instantly into a fever.

In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with visceral authenticity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.

From 1972 to 1990, Alexandra Fuller–known to friends and family as Bobo–grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. Her father joined up on the side of the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, and was often away fighting against the powerful black guerilla factions. Her mother, in turn, flung herself at their African life and its rugged farm work with the same passion and maniacal energy she brought to everything else. Though she loved her children, she was no hand-holder and had little tolerance for neediness. She nurtured her daughters in other ways: She taught them, by example, to be resilient and self-sufficient, to have strong wills and strong opinions, and to embrace life wholeheartedly, despite and because of difficult circumstances. And she instilled in Bobo, particularly, a love of reading and of storytelling that proved to be her salvation.

A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller writes poignantly about a girl becoming a woman and a writer against a backdrop of unrest, not just in her country but in her home. But Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is more than a survivor’s story. It is the story of one woman’s unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 445 pages
  • Publisher: Center Point; Lrg edition (July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611731127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611731125
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 14.9 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,596,269 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 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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21 of 21 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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13 of 13 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 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 15 hours 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 days ago by Ross Whibley
5.0 out of 5 stars Very much enjoyed this book
Recommended for anyone with an interest in Zimbabwe.
Published 6 days 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 12 days 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 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly amazing childhood memoir
This book really captured me. It has humour, pain and suffering, compassion... well everything really. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr P J Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars funny, tragic, visceral
By turns funny and tragic, Alexandra Fuller’s account of her childhood in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia captures shocking, scary, thought-provoking events and living... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bobbie
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Another book that brings the far away reality of Africa closer to us. it must be hard for families to try and manage a family in such eratic environment but there people who do it! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Maria Barros
3.0 out of 5 stars Intense, striking, sometimes macabre biog of a childhood in Africa
I nearly stopped reading this twice: once on page 92 and then again on page 132. It is a biography of a childhood spent mostly in Zimbabwe, but also later in Malawi and then... Read more
Published 4 months ago by lilysmum
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Funny so far
Easy to read account of life in Rhodesia. Very funny and entertaining in places and quite an education of what life was like before, during and after independence.
Published 4 months ago by Margaret Hastings
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