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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness
Alexandra Fuller grew up in Rhodesia, a country that doesn't exist anymore. Her memoir "Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight" was published a couple of years back, an honest, thoughtful story told in the easy flow of a natural writer. At the centre of that book was the description of her parents; hard-drinking and tough white farmers, leading what would be a life of...
Published on 10 Aug 2005 by Is

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2.0 out of 5 stars Tough Act to Follow
This should be a review about "Scribbling the Cat" however the only reason I bought this book was having read the authors first book "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight". Unfortunately "Scribbling the Cat" is simply nowhere near as good a book, but that's okay few books are. My advice for those who loved the Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight"...
Published 4 months ago by Nico


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness, 10 Aug 2005
By 
This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
Alexandra Fuller grew up in Rhodesia, a country that doesn't exist anymore. Her memoir "Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight" was published a couple of years back, an honest, thoughtful story told in the easy flow of a natural writer. At the centre of that book was the description of her parents; hard-drinking and tough white farmers, leading what would be a life of hardship according to European standards, but luxury compared with what most people around them faced. It seemed striking how ready Fuller was to expose her family; it was, obviously, also what made it a compelling book.
In "Scribbling the Cat", it's once again this willingness to pin down the often unpalatable attitudes of her fellow white Africans without much moralising that turns it into an uncomfortable but honest read. On a visit back to Zambia, where her parents have washed up following Zimbabwe's independence, Fuller meets a veteran of that war, only referred to as K. Hiding his name seems to be a strange concession to anonymity, because Fuller exposes everything else about him; theirs is the vulnerable relationship between a person and his biographer, and Fuller writes compassionately but incisively about K's violent past.
However, she is much more reticent and protective of her own emotions and reactions. For example, is she infatuated by K, as some passages in the beginning hint? Or is she merely interested in his story? At no point does she indulge herself in lengthy condemnations of what K has done: she seems to accept that his guilt is hers as well, not as a white girl in Africa, but as a person, full stop. This is what we're all capable of, is the harsh message of the book; in certain circumstances, most men are capable of murder, of torturing women to death. Is that moral laxity? Or once again, is it just the truth? I have no answer myself, but I can't shake off the question.
The two of them end up journeying back to Mozambique in some vague quest for K to confront his demons. Fuller is an evocative writer, maybe sometimes a little bit too flowery, but always adept at recreating an atmosphere. This is a world she knows very well, but also one that she has left behind, so her eyes are both those of an insider and an observer... surely the perfect vantage point for a travel writer!
It's a pacey read, carrying the reader along effortlessly, but comes to a rather abrupt end. Their journey is interrupted. Suddenly they are home. Nothing has been really resolved, neither regarding the intriguing relationship between K and Fuller, or K and his past. Maybe that's another sign of Fuller's honesty? Or the clever make-do of a woman who grew up in Africa, and knows how to find a lot in a little?
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good, if uncomfortable, read by Fuller, 11 May 2007
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J. LESTER (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
In her first book, I really liked Fuller both as a "character" and an author. In this book, however, we see a more ruthless side to her character in her attempts to get under the skin of "K".

K is a, white, former soldier in the Rhodesian Independance War and the other conflicts that spilled over into neighbouring countries. It is K who first gave Fuller the premise for this book, and after a series of meetings at her parent's farm in Zambia, they undertook a trip across K's former battlefields in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This all starts out fairly predictably, although not in a bad way, with many harrowing recollections from both K and the author about the war and it's effects on them.

The analysis of the events that took place during the war, and their effects on them as people are the many focus of the book; however in the final third it starts to concentrate more on the present and the relationship between K and Fuller. This leads to a final showdown which puts the whole book, and Fuller's motives, into question.

That being said, however, it is a very interesting story which manages to combine a good story with a historically informative story.

A Highly recommended read, even if an, at times, uncomfortable one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, honest, sad, funny!, 14 Jan 2005
Well I got hooked after reading Let's Not Go The Dogs Tonight and I am glad I bought this book. Alexandra revisits Africa again and the brutal day to day existence is recounted with searing honesty and yet she manages to infuse some homour in it too. You feel as though you are there with her and you cant help fall in love with her. The magic in her story telling is she manages to come across as the vulnerable lost girl and you can't but help want to wrap her in your arms and protect her. You will laugh at her encounter with the mad white man and his pet lion and it just goes on and on. I can't wait for her next book!!!!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding descriptions, 6 Aug 2005
By 
Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
I would highly recommend reading both "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" followed quickly by "Scribbling the Cat". That way you would be at home with Bobo - Alexandra Fuller - and her strange and quirky life, without trying to work out whether she was just downright brave or stupidly unaware. (Very, very brave) Also the setting is complicated it is worth looking up in an Atlas if you aren't familiar with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. As in the first book the accompanying photos are of poor quality and have a 'looking through Granny's album' feel although there are some very odd ones to get you in the mood. Anyway you won't find a picture of "K" as AF explains, she covers her tracks. This book is rich in atmosphere and the descriptions are beautiful. AF has a finely tuned ear for dialect and idiosyncratic expression. This sets the mood perfectly. "K" is barely controlled and rather frightening, you wonder if AF recognises the power of the embers that she is poking. I liked the way in which she points out that "It should not be physically possible to get from the banks of the Pepani River to Wyoming in less than two days, because mentally and emotionally it is impossible". This explains why wherever she is she feels "exiled by who I was". That was well put. Read this book alone for the wonderful descriptions of the lion Mambo and the introductions to the dogs she meets, the fishermen in the night and the kindness of the strangers that she meets. Cigarettes assume a whole new role as currency, inspect repellents, hunger suppressants and sedatives. Throughout the theme is of the soldiers' memories, erupting into their dreams, ghastly confessions of war crimes and efforts to put themselves right after all the horror are shaming to anyone who agrees and promotes war without considering the men that have to fight them. A most unusual, rich read with high educational value. I loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good but *so* harrowing, 3 May 2011
This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
I agree with "Heart of Darkness": this is a well written book that explores the heart of darkness we fear we all have, and does not judge. Those who enjoyed "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" be warned that this is much much MUCH darker. I do feel I should warn potential readers that for me one scene of torture was so horrific that I could not get it out of my head, much as I tried not to think of it. I honestly wished at the time that I had not read it. Maybe it was so real to me because I identify the victim with my own daughters.

The horror of having to live with the knowledge that you have deliberately tortured someone in that way, so the pain will not stop when the torture stops, and eventually they die.. that is inconceivable. You would want to obliterate yourself to escape the pain of that memory. Which is of course what the book is about at its core: a man so horrified by what he has done that whatever good and selfless acts he does subsequently (and he has) he can never atone for it. During the day he buries his face in the idea of a god who can forgive anything, but at night he screams in his nightmares, as long as he lives. And war does this to people. Many manage to go on living.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional scars, 11 Nov 2009
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This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier

Alexandra Fuller, who wrote Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight about family life in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia, now lives in Wyoming. She returns to visit her parents in Zambia. She hears about the mysterious K - a neighbor of her parent's farm - and when she asks about him her father warns her off, commenting `Curiosity scribbled the cat'. By now she is thoroughly intrigued to meet K, who is a white veteran of Rhodesian fighting. He is undoubtedly emotionally scarred by his experiences, both from his years of fighting, and from the breakup of his marriage, and the death of his child.

K is clearly besotted with Alexandra, telling her he thinks she is `the one' - and conveniently ignoring the fact of her husband and children in the US. Although she doesn't feel the same way she doesn't necessarily make this entirely clear to K, as she wants a story from listening to him telling of his experiences.

They embark on a journey through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, visiting scenes of past battles and atrocities. K reveals some of the barbaric acts he has committed during his years of fighting, and it is sometimes difficult to understand why Alexandra is not so totally revolted as to leave him. Instead she seems to take some of the guilt on herself as someone who grew up during the racially explosive times before independence.

Some of the stories are absolutely harrowing. The harsh living standards on the farms, and on the long journey, make for interesting reading for the majority of us whose lives are somewhat more luxurious.

A good read. Not quite as good as Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, but definitely worth reading.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crashing Headlong Into Terra Incognita, 23 May 2004
What is most striking about a book that contains multitudes of gob smacking passages is Alexandra (Bobo) Fullers excruciating honesty. At every turn in this story of her return to Zimbabwe there is an opportunity for an easier and more palatable course. Bo's hard drinking hellfire willed and most definitely bigoted mother is shown in all of her grace and courage, rather than an easy stereotype of colonialism, which is an almost impossible balance to achieve with one's own parent. Ultimately Bo's decision to enter her own Heart of Darkness with K., a brutal, broken and heartbreaking former soldier of the wars for Independance makes sense if there was no other way to heal the damage and accept the beauty that being from Africa has left her with. The conditions of their travel (hellish heat, corrupt officials and the Furies that lurk at every watering hole and dune) and K.'s sudden outbursts, both intensely savage and tender by turns would make a woman less dedicated to finding the truth at whatever costs catch the first plane out of Africa. For an understanding of what war, any war, actually costs this book is unparalleled. I heard the author speak here in Wyoming recently and I can't stop thinking about what she said about her attempt to heal herself, to make whole what had been broken in herself and in K. She said that what they had done instead was to wrench those wounds open and dig their hands deep inside, gripping the most sensitive, raw depths of each others shame and hurt. By laying open these wounds and exposing their flaws without flinching or turning away they were both given a greater gift. I shrink to say that the result was acceptance or something easy. There isn't anything easy about this book but it is searingly honest and it also bears mentioning really funny in a sort of death may come soon why not crack a joke here, what have I got to lose way.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but...., 11 Sep 2007
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Mr. LGD Williams (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier (Paperback)
Her first book was quite fantastic. The second good, brilliant in parts but not throughout. She has chosen an extraordinarily difficult subject who is clearly a closed and introspective individual who, while reluctant to communicate and engage with Fuller, does have a fascinating life to recount. I somehow was left at the end of the book with many more questions than answers - although this might be Fuller's intent. The descriptions and stories are beautifully told as her ability to convey a passion for Africa in all its forms as well as repugnance for much of it make it a vivid and compelling read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Hate it with a passion, 20 Mar 2014
By 
Mr. J. R. King "johnk42" (Cleethorpes, N Lincs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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If a man had confessed to torturing a white child to death the horror and disgust would have been extreme. It was a black child so no horror, no disgust, no problem. What is the matter with these people?
If you like disgusting buy this. If you don't want a nasty taste in your mouth- AVOID.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tough Act to Follow, 8 Mar 2014
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Nico (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This should be a review about "Scribbling the Cat" however the only reason I bought this book was having read the authors first book "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight". Unfortunately "Scribbling the Cat" is simply nowhere near as good a book, but that's okay few books are. My advice for those who loved the Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" is not to rush to read this book as you'll only be disappointed.
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Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier
Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller (Paperback - 3 Jun 2005)
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