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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood [Kindle Edition]

Alexandra Fuller
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (358 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

When the ship veered into the Cape of Good Hope, Mum caught the spicy, heady scent of Africa on the changing wind. She smelled the people: raw onions and salt, the smell of people who are not afraid to eat meat, and who smoke fish over open fires on the beach and who pound maize into meal and who work out-of-doors. She held me up to face the earthy air, so that the fingers of warmth pushed back my black curls of hair, and her pale green eyes went clear-glassy.

“Smell that,” she whispered, “that’s home.”

Vanessa was running up and down the deck, unaccountably wild for a child usually so placid. Intoxicated already.

I took in a faceful of African air and fell instantly into a fever.

In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with visceral authenticity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.

From 1972 to 1990, Alexandra Fuller–known to friends and family as Bobo–grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. Her father joined up on the side of the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, and was often away fighting against the powerful black guerilla factions. 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. Though she loved her children, she was no hand-holder and had little tolerance for neediness. She nurtured her daughters in other ways: She taught them, by example, to be resilient and self-sufficient, to have strong wills and strong opinions, and to embrace life wholeheartedly, despite and because of difficult circumstances. And she instilled in Bobo, particularly, a love of reading and of storytelling that proved to be her salvation.

A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller writes poignantly about a girl becoming a woman and a writer against a backdrop of unrest, not just in her country but in her home. But Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is more than a survivor’s story. It is the story of one woman’s unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood. Born in England and now living in Wyoming, Fuller was conceived and bred on African soil during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979), a world where children over five "learn[ed] how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill." With a unique and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. Curfews and war, mosquitoes, land mines, ambushes and "an abundance of leopards" are the stuff of this childhood. "Dad has to go out into the bush... and find terrorists and fight them"; Mum saves the family from an Egyptian spitting cobra; they both fight "to keep one country in Africa white-run." The "A" schools ("with the best teachers and facilities") are for white children; "B" schools serve "children who are neither black nor white"; and "C" schools are for black children. Fuller's world is marked by sudden, drastic changes: the farm is taken away for "land redistribution"; one term at school, five white students are "left in the boarding house... among two hundred African students"; three of her four siblings die in infancy; the family constantly sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. But Fuller's remarkable affection for her parents (who are racists) and her homeland (brutal under white and black rule) shines through. This affection, in spite of its subjects' prominent flaws, reveals their humanity and allows the reader direct entry into her world. Fuller's book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come. Photos not seen by PW. (On-sale Dec. 18)Forecast: Like Anne Frank's diary, this work captures the tone of a very young person caught up in her own small world as she witnesses a far larger historical event. It will appeal to those looking for a good story as well as anyone seeking firsthand reportage of white southern Africa. The quirky title and jacket will propel curious shoppers to pick it up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Pining for Africa, Fuller's parents departed England in the early '70s while she was still a toddler. They knew well that their life as white farmers living in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) would be anything but glamorous. Living a crude, rural life, the author and her older sister contended with "itchy bums and worms and bites up their arms from fleas" and losing three siblings. Mum and Dad were freewheeling, free-drinking, and often careless. Yet they were made of tough stuff and there is little doubt of the affection among family members. On top of attempting to make a living, they faced natives who were trying to free themselves of British rule, and who were understandably not thrilled to see more white bwanas settling in. Fuller portrays bigotry (her own included), segregation, and deprivation. But judging by her vivid and effortless imagery, it is clear that the rich, pungent flora and fauna of Africa have settled deeply in her bones. Snapshots scattered throughout the book enhance the feeling of intimacy and adventure. A photo of the author's first day of boarding school seems ordinary enough- she's standing in front of the family's Land Rover, smiling with her mother and sister. Then the realization strikes that young Alexandra is holding an Uzi (which she had been trained to use) and the family car had been mine-proofed. This was no ordinary childhood, and it makes a riveting story thanks to an extraordinary telling.
Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1018 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375507507
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 5, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1HQY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,825 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
154 of 159 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and fascinating biography March 13, 2002
Format:Hardcover
After reading Entertainment Weekly's review of this book, my curiousity led me to purchase it for my wife, since she enjoys reading true tales of other women. However, I started reading it before she did and I quickly was drawn into Alexandra Fuller's world.
Her style is a little disconcerting at first (simply because she is speaking in her own voice and the language and slang she grew up with), and it takes a while to fall into the flow of her jumping around in her life in the early chapters, but I almost immediately was drawn into her world.
I really enjoy writers who have a style all their own and Fuller definitely has her own unique voice. Her language is sometimes choppy, but it stills conveys meaning and understanding.
What I partuclarly liked was the subtle way she conveyed the changing of the guard in Africa, as black rule began to become the rule, rather than the exception. Without directly commenting on the changes either positively or negatively, she conveys the confusion that the change brought about and suggests that whether blacks or whites are in control, the common people of most African nations remain oppressed by their leaders.I think Ms. Fuller makes it clear that regardless of their race, whites and blacks are Africans and that something must eventually be done about the oppresive political environment present in so many African nations. This book is particulary relevant given the recent turmoil over the apparent re-election of Robert Mugabe.
I was fascinated by her mother, but wished she had provided more information about her sister. At one point she hints that her sister may have been molested by a neighbor and that a neighbor may have attempted to do the same to her, but she is vague on details, perhaps deliberately so.
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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Dissatisfied reviewers of Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" tend to dwell on the degree to which the book fails to conform to their own agendas and expectations. These reviewers lament Fuller's perceived lack of attention to women's issues, the plight of black Zimbabweans, and the horrors of the Rhodesian War, to name a few. In other words, rather than praise Fuller for the story she tells, they criticize her for stories they believe she fails to tell. To bad for them; they are missing out on a great book.
In addition to being smart, funny, entertainnig, and well-written, Fuller's memoir provides invaluable insight into the end of white rule in southern Africa. The Fullers are hardly members of a wealthly, landed, colonial ruling class. They are poor, rootless, prone to drinking and fighting. Where is the privilege, however minimal, for which they and other white Rhodesians fought? Why on earth would they stay on in places like Zambia and Malawi after the end of white rule? Fuller offers no definite answers to these questions -- though possible answers lurk in the loving and intricate passages in which Fuller describes the sights, sounds, and smells of southern African life. As the story of ordinary white Africans living through a defining moment in southern African history, this book works particularly well.
Those who enjoy Fuller's book might also want to read "Mukiwa," Peter Godwin's equally excellent memoir of growing up in white Rhodesia. Godwin (who, like Fuller, spent much of his youth in the eastern part of Rhodesia, near the border with Mozambique) is about ten years older than Fuller. As such, he offers more about the origins of the war.
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94 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do Let's Read This Book Tonight January 6, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a pleasure it is to start off the new year with a wonderful new book. I probably never would have picked this book up, except for the glowing reviews it's been getting. And, are they ever deserved. This is the story of Bobo Fuller, daughter of gone-to-the-dogs parents in 1970's Rhodesia, on the losing (depending on your point of view) side of a civil war. Covering her growing-up years of moving from one place to another in Africa always searching for a way to exist in a place where white Africans no longer had power and privilege, Ms. Fuller writes unsparingly, unsentimentally, and honestly about her family and their remarkable experiences. Don't miss this terrific book.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous August 31, 2005
Format:Paperback
One reviewer here gave this book one star because he thought the protagonist and her family racist. He is mostly right. None of that need detract from the fact that this is a superb book with a transparency and sense of place rarely seen.

you may not always agree with what you read in it but that does not make it any less worth reading. Speaking as a mixed race man who has lived in many places in Africa, I found this to be honest and well-observed. The fact that the author does not attempt to re-write her family history to appear politically correct speaks for her honesty.

Go read this magnificent book.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done. . . . December 3, 2005
Format:Paperback
A well delivered account of a British family that settles in colonized Rhodesia. The author's account of her family's experience is well written, humorous at time and painful at others. My initial resistance to the memoir was based on early impressions that this is yet another depiction of European oppression of native Africans during colonization. However, as the book progresses life in war torn Rhodesia (and other countries) as revealed from the perspective of farming class colonizers proves to be more interesting than expected. Fuller aptly captures the atmosphere of the African countryside - its sounds, smells and beauty. It's always difficult to read of the disdain, disrespect and assumed superiority of one race over another but the author's life account demonstrates that a shift in racist notions is possible. The book came to me by way of a friend who thought the book would be too "deep". I didn't find that to be the case. I doubt that I would have picked this up on my own but I'm glad to have been exposed to the author's coming of age in the Motherland.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, beautiful, harsh
True, this book is not for sensitive people---as it is a book set during a civil war, though, you might expect that. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Alexei
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book on what it was like to have lived ...
Wonderful book on what it was like to have lived in Kenya as it was being handed over to home rule
Published 2 days ago by Noeleen Brennan
4.0 out of 5 stars This was a good read, and quite a life the author lived ...
This was a good read, and quite a life the author lived in Africa. It's amazing what some childhoods are like, and the things kids go through. Well worth it.
Published 9 days ago by Jay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
THE BEST BOOK EVER. HAVE READ IT TWICE. AM UP FOR A THIRD AND FOURTH. REMARKABLE WRITER, REMARKABLE STORY.
Published 9 days ago by Holly G. Dickens
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing how this book reads like the poisonwood bible.....
I found the book fascinating in many respects. I don't think I could ever live in such hellish places but I appreciated the journey from my tidy house devoid of vermin and snakes. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Seattle Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Expressive and engaging
Honest, poignant, writing surprises, humorous -- very true to the time and period. the author used originality and captured me, the reader, from the very beginning. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nathalie J. Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book more than once...
Rich descriptions of life as a white ex-pat family living in "paradise"

What a life!!!

Made me wish for more excitement in my own life.
Published 1 month ago by Margaret
4.0 out of 5 stars Having just gone to Africa, I could identify with this book. It was...
This book really captured Africa in a beautiful way. It gave me a feeling for the impact on people's everyday life in a shifting of the boundaries of countries. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brenda J. Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writer - such a feeling of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia...
Having grown up in Kenya I loved this book and it feeling for Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. I laughed my way through, remembering so many of my similar childhood... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jane Hawkins
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for sensitive people
If you don't want to read books where children are molested (details omitted, thankfully), people are murdered in random acts of violence, babies die tragically, skip this one. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Granny Smith
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More About the Author

Alexandra Fuller is the author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat. She was born in England and grew up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia.

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