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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Paperback – June 26, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 279 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Electrifying…Writing in shimmering, musical prose… Ms. Fuller manages the difficult feat of writing about her mother and father with love and understanding, while at the same time conveying the terrible human costs of the colonialism they supported… Although Ms. Fuller would move to America with her husband in 1994, her own love for Africa reverberates throughout these pages, making the beauty and hazards of that land searingly real for the reader.” Michiko Kakutani, THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Ten years after publishing Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Alexandra (Bobo) Fuller treats us in this wonderful book to the inside scoop on her glamorous, tragic, indomitable mother…Bobo skillfully weaves together the story of her romantic, doomed family against the background of her mother’s remembered childhood.” — THE WASHINGTON POST

“Another stunner… The writer's finesse at handling the element of time is brilliant, as she interweaves near-present-day incidents with stories set in the past. Both are equally vivid… With "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" Alexandra Fuller, master memoirist, brings her readers new pleasure. Her mum should be pleased.” 
CLEVELAND PLAIN-DEALER

“Fuller's narrative is a love story to Africa and her family. She plumbs her family story with humor, memory, old photographs and a no-nonsense attitude toward family foibles, follies and tragedy. The reader is rewarded with an intimate family story played out against an extraordinary landscape, told with remarkable grace and style.”MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE

“[Fuller] conveys the magnetic pull that Africa could exert on the colonials who had a taste for it, the powerful feeling of attachment. She does not really explain that feeling—she is a writer who shows rather than tells—but through incident and anecdote she makes its effects clear, and its costs.” — THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“[A]n artistic and emotional feat.” — THE BOSTON GLOBE

“An eccentric, quixotic and downright dangerous tale with full room for humor, love and more than a few highballs.” — HUFFINGTON POST

About the Author

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972, she moved with her family to a farm in southern Africa. She lived in Africa until her midtwenties. In 1994 she moved to Wyoming, where she now resides.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143121340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121343
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I loved, loved, loved "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" so I ran out and paid full-price for "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" as soon as I'd heard it was out. As I tore through through the first 100 pages, I wondered when Fuller would get to something new. She tells the same stories of her childhood, from slightly different perspectives and with a few details added or omitted. Yes, we get the voice of her mother in this volume but it didn't really tell the reader anything new or particularly insightful about Nicola Fuller, who dominates and colors the pages of "Don't Lets..." The added family histories of her parents was the most interesting thing in this book (and actually, those parts were in the first 100 pages). Reading the same book ("Don't Lets...") over again but for the first time was delightful to me. But, all in all, I was disappointed. She wrote this book before and I read this book before. It seems like Fuller wanted to re-live the writing and publishing and success of "Don't Let's..." I'd rather just read and re-read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight."
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Format: Hardcover
"There we go then," Mum said, "I'll just get my Uzi and we'll be off...."
"Bullets, lipstick, sunglasses. Off we go...." (p. 28-29).

Alexandra Fuller's family makes you feel much better about your own.

Having lived in the insanity of Kamuzu Banda's Malawi, having watched in horror as Mugabe righted one wrong with another, I rejoice that Ms. Fuller has written another installment in her family's saga. No, it was not right for the Brits to take over Africa and take away from those who were already there. Ms Fuller's story, however, puts a human face on "white Africa"-- not a world not of fanatical white supremasits (of which there were many, many, many) but of hard-working whites who ignored the rights/wrongs and tried to build a life on a continent whose indigenous people are seemingly forever compelled to fight and lose to hold their own land. No one who has not lived there can accurately judge this book. The social mores, the threats to life, the weaknesses of any political system imposed to try to bring someone's definition of "order" have to be lived first-hand to be believed and understood.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Fuller has written an intriguing story of her parents' lives in [mostly] eastern Africa, their struggles during and after British control and what the white farming experience was [and I guess is] like in that vast continent. She does an excellent job describing the beauty and horrors of living daily life there; particularly touching is the Fullers' deep love for Africa which is quite palpable throughout the book - they just can't imagine living anywhere else and always come back. I'd really like to know these people! No obstacle deters them from scratching out a living on various farms they either own or manage. And it's clear how much Ms. Fuller loves and admires them for their perseverance.

Some of the descriptions of the surroundings and landscapes are so lovely - particularly as evening falls - that I felt as though I were sitting right there with Ms. Fuller and her mother as they reminisce together. Two minor negatives are 1) the book starts off a little jumbled and would have been better had it proceeded chronologically as it does as it gets going, and 2) more pictures and maps of the regions the Fullers lived and traveled in would have been helpful.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a relatively fast read, and it's the sequel to "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight". It makes the most sense to read the books in this order. This book answers many of the questions the first book left me with, including the history behind the wars in Kenya and Zambia and why the author's parents remained in Africa in spite of mounting tragedies and hardships. The author knows her parents well and has lived with them long enough to understand the bewitching effect the land has on them. Nicola Fuller explains her reason for choosing the less-ordinary life by saying, "What-ifs are the worse kind of post-mortem. And I hate post-mortems. Much better to face the truth, pull up your socks and get on with whatever comes next." As a reader who has not lived through any of this, I still struggle to understand their dogged determination to stay in Central Africa through civil wars, imminent danger, thievery, loss of property, the deaths of 3 children, and sketchy medical care. It amazes me to no end that they stayed there, because it just about killed them.

The author does a great job of capturing her mother's storytelling dialogue and flair for drama throughout the book. I loved the concept of the Tree of Forgetfulness as a place where locals go to resolve their disagreements. What better place to remember and recreate family stories of life in Central Africa? Cocktails drunk underneath the tree of forgetfulness can help make the good memories stronger than the bad.

I recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I went to a boarding school where I met many daughters from the far-flung Empire, & I'd listen to their stories in awe. So was thrilled when I learnt that Alexandra Fuller had begun writing her Africa memoirs.

This one is about what her Mum & Dad lived through & recounted over many a libation during her return trips to their latest home on the north shore of the Zambezi River. It is also salted with her own memories & those of her older sister telling us of grand & hopeful adventures as well as dire danger, searing sorrow & the occasional Wobbly attack.

In her ebullient voice AF evokes the Africa that entranced this couple who survived grim childhoods ala Robert Louis Stevenson (most of us did = world wide economic depression & then war); found each other in East Africa & created an enduring marriage with multiple pregnancies & deaths, valiant horses & generations of dogs.

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa did not live a politically correct life (so get over it!), however, her daughter's rapturous telling of her parents wonderfilled & fearsome journeys in strange lands during times that were a-changing, guides you through domestic & national upheavals, all the time leaving scents & scenes for you. You also get just the right doses of godawful politics, dry as dust humor, hard won local lore & philosophies.

Babes in the woods, they were, with certain luck to survive to old age, still working & learning & wondering what the next morning will bring, & by evening, sitting under the Tree of Forgetfulness, remembering.

Very well done. Am looking forward to when Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood gets here.
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