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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood Paperback – 11 Mar 2003
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Dont Lets go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fullers 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 Fullers 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, Fullers "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 Fullers 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 authors "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 alternate Paperback edition.
" This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over." -- "Newsweek"
" By turns mischievous and openhearted, earthy and soaring . . . hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling." -- "The New Yorker
" Ms. Fuller gives us . . . the Africa she knew as a girl, a place of cruel politics, violent heat and startling beauty, a land she makes vivid in all its ' incongruous, lawless, joyful, violent, upside-down, illogical certainty.' " -- "The New York Times"
" Vivid, insightful and sly . . . Bottom line: Out of Africa, brilliantly." -- "People"
This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over. Newsweek
By turns mischievous and openhearted, earthy and soaring . . . hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling. The New Yorker
The Africa of this beautiful book is not easy to forget. Despite, or maybe even because of, the snakes, the leopards, the malaria and the sheer craziness of its human inhabitants, often violent but pulsing with life, it seems like a fine place to grow up, at least if you are as strong, passionate, sharp and gifted as Alexandra Fuller. Chicago Tribune
Owning a great story doesn t guarantee being able to tell it well. That s the individual mystery of talent, a gift with which Alexandra Fuller is richly blessed, and with which she illuminates her extraordinary memoir. . . . There s flavor, aroma, humor, patience . . . and pinpoint observational acuity. Entertainment Weekly
This is a joyously telling memoir that evokes Mary Karr s The Liars Club as much as it does Isak Dinesen s Out of Africa. New York Daily News
Riveting . . . [full of] humor and compassion. O: The Oprah Magazine
The incredible story of an incredible childhood. The Providence Journal
Fuller s look back at her early life in an English family at the violent tail end of colonialism is sad and hilarious. USA Today
From the Hardcover edition."
"This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over."--Newsweek
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My acquaintance with Africa is restricted to a small number of holidays and a slightly larger number of business trips - and of course reading books like this.
Bo (sorry to be familiar but I felt we were good friends by the end of the book) writes so evocatively that it's just like being back there.
If you want a taste of Africa and an absolutely compelling family story read this book.
In the mid-60's, a Mau-Mau like group of local rebels, vaguely communist inspired, the Simbas, attacked isolated farms (all farms were isolated) to chase out of the country all remaining Europeans and we had to take what precautions we could. We had far less weaponry around the house than the family in the book and only my father handled his hunting rifle. We also had a small hand gun, meant mainly to have a go at the snakes (although our fore-man was far better at it with his "coupe-coupe", his machete). When things became untenable, we took a rather dramatic runner, passing through two improvised prison-camps - luckily held by the official Congolese army. Each time the officers let us go when their men's mood turned decidedly nasty, although in the second camp they did not let go other families with teenaged children or adults without children. When we left, their men had started sorting the adults for execution after having brought in a machete'd "collaborator" to show what they had in mind and took pot-shots at us while we were running towards our van. We finally ended up in a refugee-camp in Uganda, where an outbreak of polio was in full flight. The men were called up to man barricades at the border, as the Congolese army was deemed likely to attack the refugee-camp. The women and children had to take refuge in a water-tower. From there, we eventually returned to a very different country - for us children at least - Belgium. We could never ascertain what had happened to the other families in the second prison camp, which probably means they got out in the end as well. Different story from the book, but a lot of things ring nevertheless quite familiar.
The book is well written and adopts the right tone for the subject as seen through a growing child's eyes. To be recommended.
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