Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight : An African Childhood [ Large Print ] Unknown Binding – 2003
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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. This brutal reality is told with great honesty from a childs perpective.
On the other hand, to my mind, the best things that Alexandra describes are the little items that made up an white African childhood in those days. For example, the mixing of Afrikaans sayings into usual English conversation e.g. "Agh, sis" (meaning "yuck"); using the word "brookies" (a joke from my childhood - book title "Girl In The Tree" by I.C.Brooks) i.e. knickers; using "Ja" instead of 'yes'; and regardless of the gender to whom one is talking, always ending a sentence with "man".
She describes items a child might see such as 'penny cools' (which were tubes of plastic filled with frozen fruit juice), Willards crisps and ProNutro.
Incidents such as the killing of a cobra by her mother reminds me of when a boomslang met its own demise in a neighbour's garden. Or the singing of pop songs by Alexandra and her sister on kopjies to all and sundry.
But ultimately it is her experiences as a white African child that Alexandra tells of; the joys and and sadnessess within the family as she grew up; and her love that still is present to this day, for the continent of Africa wherever she might be.
on a book after just 50 pages of reading, but this one gets 10 out of 10 for succeeding. I have a very flexible attitude towards books I read, and was very much looking forward to this one,having read about it and looking at some of the reviews. Sadly it failed almost at the starting post. I was unable to cope with the authors progressive way of changing decades between chapters for no apparent reason, and it left me wondering where I was in the story. For me it jumped about too much with no explanation, and after trying hard to get to grips with it, quite simply dumped it!
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