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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Hardcover – August 23, 2011
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“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.”
“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.”
“[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.”
“Cocktail Hour [Under the Tree of Forgetfulness] subtly explores the intersections of personality, history, and landscape in ways that are continually fresh and thoughtful.”
—CHARLESTON POST AND COURIER
“Gracefully recounted using family recollections and photos, the author plumbs the narrative with a humane and clear-eyed gaze—a lush story, largely lived within a remarkable place and time.”
“In this sequel to her 2001 memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, which her unflattered mum calls the ‘Awful Book,’ Duller gives a warm yet wry account of her British parents’ arduous life in Africa. . . . With searing honesty and in blazingly vibrant prose, Fuller re-creates her mother’s glorified Kenyan girlhood and visits her forever-wild parents at their Zambian banana and fish farm today. The result is an entirely Awesome Book.”
“Fuller brings Africa to life, both its natural splendor and the harsher realities of day-to-day existence, and sheds light on her parents in all their humanness—not a glaring sort of light, but the soft equatorial kind she so beautifully describes in this memoir.”
“Fuller revisits her vibrant, spirited parents, first introduced in Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (2001), which her mother referred to as that ‘awful book’. . . . This time around, Nicola is well aware her daughter is writing another memoir, and shares some of her memories under the titular Tree of Forgetfulness, which looms large by the elder Fullers’ house in Zambia. Fuller’s prose is so beautiful and so evocative that readers will feel that they, too, are sitting under that tree. A gorgeous tribute to both her parents and the land they love.”
—BOOKLIST (starred review)
“A sardonic follow-up to her first memoir about growing up in Rhodesia circa the 1970s, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, this work traces in wry, poignant fashion the lives of her intrepid British parents. . . . Fuller achieves another beautifully wrought memoir.”
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)
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.
Top customer reviews
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* It contains lyrical and vivid writing that pulls the reader into the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions of the narrative's places, especially Africa.
* It offers an introduction to a world and culture and place that is so utterly foreign to me, I felt as though I had gone on a grand safari myself.
* Its character development was both harsh and compassioniate, especially the rendering of the author's mother "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa."
* The story provides keen insight into the often unmentioned civilian victims of war.
* The narrative explores life's emotional complexities of, and brutalities against, the human heart, yet it moves quickly enough not to become maudlin or mired dark places.
* It inspired me to think about how I would react in some of the unspeakably awful circumstances that Nicola Fuller, the author (Nicola's daughter), and others in the family had to face. We judge others at our own peril.
* The author's ability to step back far enough to see her family with the eye of an artist and the heart of a loved one impressed me.
* The book succeeds, I believe, in conveying why anyone might be willing, against incredible odds, to keep coming back to what must be a very seductive part of the world.
Here are some quotes I noted:
Speaking of her mother's childhood in Kenya: "It was, in many ways, a charmed and feral childhood."
Describing the brutal landscape: "It was toward the end of the long dry season; the wind had been red all day with dust blown in from Uganda and settling on everything like powdered blood, the sun blistered out of a high, clear sky."
...and her mother's garden: "an encouraged tangle of bougainvillea and passion fruit vines, beds of lilies and strelitzia, rows of lilac bushes and caladiums looming over borders of impatiens."
"War is Africa's perpetual ripe fruit. There is so much injustice to resolve, such desire for revenge in the blood of the people, such crippling corruption of power, such unseemly scramble for the natural resources. The wind of power shifts and there go the fruit again, tumbling toward the ground, each war more inventively terrible than the last."
As the author tells the story of her brother's illness and death: "My impuse is impossible: I want to reach back through the years and protect my young parents from what happens next."
"Surely until all of us own and honor one another's dead, until we have admitted to our murders and forgiven one another and ourselves for what we have done, there can be no truce, no dignity and no peace."
"People often ask why my parents haven't left Africa. Simply put, they have been possessed by this land."
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.