Posted 20 hours ago

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller shares visceral memories of her childhood in Africa, and of her headstrong, unforgettable mother. Bobo feels neither African (where she spends most of her childhood) nor British (where she was born). The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products. When they stop a journey at a fancy hotels, the opulence is unfamiliar: "the chairs were swallowingly soft". Alexandra Fuller’s African childhood was much more eventful and harrowing than my own: growing up a desperately poor farmer’s daughter in the epicenter of the Rhodesian war for independence, with Uzis a more common accessory than handbags, and a dysfunctional, alcoholic, supremacist, emotionally remote family, before bouncing around ex-British colonial East Africa as tenant farm managers.

The politics and the everyday struggle to make a living from the land are mixed with family tragedy; a sister drowned, a brother dead from meningitis and another stillborn. They have free reign among scorpions, snakes, leopards, and baboons and they live in the middle of the Rhodesian war. The book also touches upon politics and racism in South and Central Africa and the relationship of blacks and white during wartime.which is better than having money", and they're pretty bad at managing what little money they do have. While giving a sense of the continent’s political shifts, she mostly focuses on her own family: the four-person circus that was Bobo (that’s her), Van (her older sister Vanessa), Dad, and Mum (an occasionally hospitalized manic-depressive alcoholic who lost three children) – not to mention an ever-changing menagerie of horses, dogs and other pets.

She gives an account of meeting the first black student to transfer from his former boarding school, talking to him, finding out that he is polite and doesn’t have the stereotyped “African manners” and that his family is much better off financially than any of the white students’. They continue, through war, drought, bad harvests, the birth of their children and the loss of their children, to have fun, to drink and party and play cards, to dance and have another drink, and then drink a whole lot more. I loved the use of language, the strung-together adjectives and the powerful descriptions of the essence of Africa - the sheer enormity of the land, the harsh, unforgiving climate, the beauty that overwhelms the senses every single day. The mosquito coils, the baobab trees, the explosion of day birds, the greasy fish stews over rice, the smells of black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass.

My grandparents spent time in Zambia when my mother and aunt were small, and my uncle was born there, so I suppose, in some ways, it hit home; the segregation, the animals, the low-humming threat of violence, the drinking, the dusty heat. There was so little introspection, so little emotional reaction to anything, and the end of the book was so rushed, that at the end I was disappointed. Captured wild cattle give "reluctant milk" and even after adding Milo milkshake powder, "nothing can disguise the taste of the reluctant milk".

The day out devised by the elder daughter, Vanessa, in a desperate attempt to heal the grieving family. Alexandra Fuller took me on an amazing journey through her younger years growing up in Africa as a poor white girl. Here it is so hot that “the flamboyant tree outside cracks to itself, as if already anticipating how it will feel to be on fire”.

The verges of the road have been mown to reveal neat, upright barbed-wire fencing and fields of army-straight tobacco.

That's the individual mystery of talent, a gift with which Alexandra Fuller is richly blessed, and with which she illuminates her extraordinary memoir. From Zimbabwe, the Fullers move to Malawi, where they are closely watched by government agents, notably a houseboy who presents himself for employment and will not take 'no' for an answer. Admittedly, Fuller’s nonlinear account of her childhood in Africa is a little more eventful than theirs. The rainy season that brought with it gray solid sheets of water which rendered roads as thick and sticky as porridge. Nothing about it makes sense, except in a magical way, and her eyes are opened by that incomprehension to see the world with the stalled, wise gaze of an eight-year-old girl.Her entire experiences were against a backdrop of ongoing struggles between blacks and whites that continued for many years. This is a book I definitely plan to read again, knowing that I will get even more out of it the second time. 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. How can I love them, they are so very far from any way I could live my own life, but nevertheless I love them to pieces. In Rhodesia we are born and then the umbilical cord of each child is sewn straight from the mother into the ground, where it takes root and grows.

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