Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

( 55 )

Overview

A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of Fuller’s parents and of the price of being possessed by Africa’s uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land. We follow Tim and Nicola Fuller hopscotching the continent, restlessly trying to establish a home. War, hardship, and tragedy follow the family even as Nicola fights to hold on to her children, her land, her sanity. But just when it seems that Nicola has been ...

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Overview

A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of Fuller’s parents and of the price of being possessed by Africa’s uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land. We follow Tim and Nicola Fuller hopscotching the continent, restlessly trying to establish a home. War, hardship, and tragedy follow the family even as Nicola fights to hold on to her children, her land, her sanity. But just when it seems that Nicola has been broken by the continent she loves, it is the African earth that revives and nurtures her. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is Fuller at her very best.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Alexandra Fuller's 2002 debut memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight described her experiences growing up in civil war-plagued Rhodesia during the seventies. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness places that picture in fuller perspective by presenting the story through the lives of Fuller's parents, her father Edward and, most especially, her Scottish mother Nicola. Told with sensitivity and an intimate sense of the family's epic struggles, this memoir captures the fury of Africa's revolutions more vividly than a dozen films.

Publishers Weekly
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, determined to stake a life on their farm despite the raging African civil war around them. Fuller's mother is the central figure, Nicola Fuller of Central, as she is known, born "one million percent Highland Scottish"; she grew up mostly in Kenya in the 1950s, was schooled harshly by the nuns in Eldoret, learned to ride horses masterfully, and married a dashing Englishman before settling down on their own farm, first in Kenya, then Rhodesia, where the author (known as Bobo) and her elder sister, Vanessa, were born in the late 1960s. The outbreak of civil war in the mid-1970s resolved the family to dig in deeper on their farm in Robandi, rather than flee, to order to preserve a life of colonial privilege and engrained racism that was progressively vanishing. While the girls dispersed as grownups (the author lives in Wyoming with her American husband), the parents managed to secure a fish and banana farm in the middle of the Zambezi valley in Zambia, and under a legendary Tree of Forgetfulness (where ancestors are supposed to reside and help resolve trouble) they ruminate with their visitors over the long-gone days, full of death and loss, the ravages of war, and a determination to carry on. Fuller achieves another beautifully wrought memoir. (Aug.)
Booklist
In her fourth memoir, Fuller revisits her vibrant, spirited parents, first introduced in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (2002), which her mother referred to as that "awful book." While that so-called "awful book" focused on Fuller's memories of growing up in Rhodesia during that country's civil war, this one focuses solely on her parents: their youth, their meeting, and their struggles to find a home on the continent they are both so passionate about. Fuller's mother, Nicola, the child of Scottish parents, grew up in Kenya, while her father, Tim, had an austere childhood in London. Tim wandered the world before landing in Kenya and meeting Nicola. Readers will recall the hardships the couple faced from Fuller's first memoir: the deaths of three of their five children and the loss of their home in Rhodesia. 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.
Library Journal
If you loved Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight—and I certainly did—you'll want to bury yourself in this sequel. Fuller here focuses more fully on her mother, Nicola, who was born on the Isle of Skye but raised in Kenya and was passionately devoted to family, land, and her belief in the goodness of animals. Then came both personal tragedy and continental upheaval, as Nicola and husband Tim found themselves constantly on the run with their old world collapsing and a new world looming. Now they've found some peace sitting under their Tree of Forgetfulness, a tradition taken from the locals, who gather under such a tree when disputes are to be settled. Everything that made Dogs wonderful reading seems to be here, too: the deep comprehension of sorrow, certainly, but also the dead-on portraits, leavening wit, and, finally, generosity. Get the reading group guide and go to town.
Martin Rubin
In "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness," Ms. Fuller revisits her childhood, focusing more on her parents' experience than her own. Along the way she 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.
Wall Street Journal
Dominique Browning
"Cocktail Hour" hits the mark. It may be regarded as a prequel, or a sequel, to "Dogs." It hardly matters. The two memoirs form a fascinating diptych of mirrors, one the reflection of a child's mind, the other of an adult's. Images bounce and refract over the years; the reader catches a glimpse of the adult in the child, and the child in the adult. Taken together, as they ought to be, the books transport us to a grand landscape of love, loss, longing and reconciliation.
New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Fuller's previous well-received memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood dealt with her time growing up amid the harsh realities of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during civil war in the 1970s. In her new memoir, billed as a combination of prequel and sequel, she focuses on her mother, Nicola Fuller, whose adventurous spirit, droll humor, and abiding love for Africa were challenged by the tragic deaths of three of her young children and her subsequent mental breakdown. Fuller evocatively depicts her mother's Kenya childhood, marriage to Tim Fuller, and the ensuing chaos and joys of raising a family and eking out a precarious living amid the wild and inspiring African landscape. Her eloquent depiction of her mother's darker sides, including racism, alcoholism, and mental illness, reveals a fascinating, flawed, and funny woman whose story illuminates the contradictions and extremes of Africa itself. VERDICT Unsparing, well written, and spiced with many compelling anecdotes, this vivid tale of a one-of-a-kind matriarch and her family's fortitude through adversity and absurdity will be relished by memoir fans and recreational readers interested in Africa. Such readers may also enjoy Isak Dinesen's classic Out of Africa or Barbara Kingsolver's dark novel The Poisonwood Bible. [See Prepub Alert, 1/31/11.]—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
Kirkus Reviews

Revisiting her family story first introduced in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (2001), Fuller (The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, 2008, etc.) employs her mother's exceptional life as a pivot point for chronicling her parent's perseverance overcoming personal tragedies and the political chaos of mid-20th-century Africa.

The golden-hued life of white settlers in Kenya, ensured by the trappings of the British empire, was already a mirage by the mid 1960s when Fuller's parents married. In 1964, the Republic of Kenya was born, ending white rule. For several years, the young couple lived idyllic lives, but the political climate was deteriorating. Like many "jittery settlers" Fuller's grandparents sold their farm and returned to Britain, never to return to Africa. Fuller's mother was devastated, and she and the author's father remained but "receded further and further south as African countries in the north gained their independence." The family resettled into a new home in Rhodesia, but a family tragedy soon found them, precipitating the family's relocation to England, where the author was born. The dreary, rain-soaked island held little appeal for the family; Fuller's mother recalls, "We longed for the warmth and freedom, the real open spaces, the wild animals, the sky at night." After returning to Africa and borrowing money for a farm in Rhodesia, the family found themselves engulfed by civil war. After another devastating family loss catapulted Fuller's mother into a cascade of breakdowns, their luck turned when the Zambian government issued them a 99-year lease on a farm. During a 2010 visit, Fuller's parents were happy and at peace, their farm "a miracle of productivity, order and routine."

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.

Binka Le Breton
…in this wonderful book…[Fuller] tells the story of her long and often troubled relationship with her mother with unflinching honesty.
—The Washington Post
THE WASHINGTON POST
“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 WALL STREET JOURNAL
“[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 BOSTON GLOBE
“[A]n artistic and emotional feat.”
HUFFINGTON POST
“An eccentric, quixotic and downright dangerous tale with full room for humor, love and more than a few highballs.”
CLEVELAND PLAIN-DEALER
“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.” 
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE
“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.”
Michiko Kakutani
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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594202995
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/23/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 404,351
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexandra Fuller

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.

Good To Know

In our interview with Fuller, she shared some fascinating facts about herself:

"There isn't a moment that I am not thinking about Africa. I am either thinking about it in relation to what I am writing at that time, or I am thinking about it in relations to where I am geographically (I am writing this at my desk in my office overlooking the Tetons, which could not be further, you might argue, from Zambia. Yet, I have been thinking all morning that the cry of an angry great blue heron -- they are nesting in the aspens at the end of our property -- sound like Chacma baboons)."

"The best way for me to evoke the same sense of place and the same smells and the same space of Africa is when I am out riding. I have a rather naughty little Arab mare, whom I accompany (it would be an exaggeration to claim that I "ride" her) into the mountains almost every day when the snow is clear. Something about being away from people, alone with a horse and a dog, fills me with an intense sense of joy and well-being, and I always return from these excursions inspired (if not to write, then to be a better mother, or to cook something fabulous, or to do the laundry)."

"I have come to the conclusion that I can only write about something if I have actually smelled it for myself. I have no idea what this says about me, but I think it's a fact of my work. I also cannot think of something without immediately evoking its smell (for example, if I think of my father, I think of the smell of cigarette smoke and the bitter scent of his sweat -- he has never once worn deodorant, so his smell is very organic and wonderfully his -- and of the faint aroma of tea and engine oil he exudes). Once, in France, a particularly thorough journalist (he had 50 questions for me!) said, somewhat accusingly, 'You have written here in your book' (it was Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight) 'about the smell of frog sperm. What exactly does frog sperm smell of?' And without hesitating for a moment, I replied, 'Cut turnips,' which I think surprised both of us."

"I love to write, and I dislike overly long interviews."

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    1. Hometown:
      Wilson, Wyoming
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 29, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Glossop, Derbyshire, England
    1. Education:
      B. A., Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1992

Table of Contents

Cast of Main Characters xi

Part 1

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa Learns to Fly 3

Nicola Huntingford Is Born 12

Nicola Fuller and the Fancy Dress Parties 25

Roger Huntingford's War 41

Nicola Huntingford Learns to Ride 51

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa Goes to Her High School Reunion 63

Nicola Huntingford, the Afrikaner and the Perfect Horse 77

Nicola Huntingford and the Mau Mau 90

Part 2

Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode 107

Nicola Fuller and the Perfect House 120

Nicola Fuller in Rhodesia: Round One 133

Nicola Fuller in England 146

Nicola Fuller in Rhodesia: Round Two 156

Olivia 171

Nicola Fuller and the End of Rhodesia 184

Part 3

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa and the Tree of Forgetfulness 199

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa at Home 216

Acknowledgments 225

Appendix: Nicola Fuller of Central Africa: The Soundtrack 229

Glossary: A Guide to Unusual or Foreign Words and Phrases 231

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 55 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(18)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 23, 2011

    Wonderful old school storytelling!

    An amazing account of coming of age in Africa. The captivating language has the effect of making you feel as if you're one of the family, sitting under the tree, and listening to the stories in person. Upon finishing the book I found myself with the awesome feeling that I actually knew the land and its people. Fantastic read, highly recommended.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    Entertaining

    Did not enjoy this book as much as the first: Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight. And it helps if you have read the first book. But still entertaining.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2012

    Good

    I thought this book was a interesting read, not too captivating though. I felt like it was all over the place. Based on other reviews I should have read the previous book first. It was good enough that I'd give another of her books a read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    If you dream of Africa, read this!

    It will help to have read Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" before reading her "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" because the second book helps you understand some of the wonderful, sometimes frightening, craziness of her life growing up in Africa.
    In any case, if you have dreamed of living in Africa - or any place that seems out of reach - both of these books will enthrall you. They may take away some of the magic of the place, but they show life as it was - real and threatening and unlike any growing-up most of us have enjoyed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    Wonderful

    Read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" and liked it very much. But this book created a such a clear picture of the author's mother that I felt her in the room with me. Wonderfully written and also very interesting insight into her parent's lives in Africa.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2011

    Loved her writing style

    As soon as I finished the book I immediately bought another one she wrote.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Thoroughly entertaining!

    I enjoyed Alexandra Fuller's autobiography of her African Childhood; this sequel is even better. The stories about her mother are so entertaining, and at the same time frequently extremely poignant. I found myself laughing through tears at times. And craving a cocktail!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

    Recommended.

    It is a good book that brings you a good feeling of Life in Africa.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 27, 2011

    Good read

    Good but not great.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Excellent read!

    This book is laugh out loud funny alternating with deeply moving and intriguing. I loved the book from the start and found myself looking for other works written by this talented author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2011

    Brutally honest as well as fantastic

    Though its setting in central and east Africa certainly sets the mood, this is really a story of a daughter's love and appreciation of her parents. How Alexandra elects to cover certain gut wrenching moments - via candor, courage and a will to go on - helps make the book both piognant and memorable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Really good - but I loved "Don't Let's Go" better.

    The author is a wonderful storyteller. I prefer her prior memoir (Don't Let's Go...) over this one simply because this on jumps around frequently in time and place, so it reads more like short stories. Still, when I read her work, it makes me want to move abroad and raise my own kids in such a magical place. Despite the challenges and huge losses, I can't help but be envious of the author's childhood adventures. A must read. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    Highly recommend

    I was transported to colonial Africa for a few days. I like Fuller's style of writing and her sense of humor. I found the book to be very entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2011

    highly recommend

    A wonderful memoir with an equally wonderful cast of characters. A great finish to Lets not go to the dogs tonight. It's so refreshing to read a memoir with laugh out loud moments rather than painful chilhood abuse. Really well written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A must read!

    An excellent writer. The read places you right their with her. Couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    Fuller¿s story is a biography of her mother, Nicole of Central A

    Fuller’s story is a biography of her mother, Nicole of Central Africa (as she liked to be called), and transports you to an entirely foreign place and time for most of us, South Africa.  Along with Nicole’s memories, the author relates her own memories of her childhood, with the theme of family blood ties to both ancestral lands in Scotland, as well as her adopted homeland, Africa.  The child was raised by her adventuresome, strange and sometimes terrifying parents, and her book tells stories funny and frightening, always with the theme of a mother tied by heart and soul, to the land where she was born and lived, South Africa.  Behind the child’s own memories of her childhood, she learns the  memories of Nicole, of  the life of Nicole’s parents and other forebears who, along with many generations of British, are part of the history of colonial South Africa; about the thousands of British people who farmed and occupied lands there.  Nicole’s earliest memories, while surely embellished and not necessarily factual, are precious to her; those legends of her family’s warlike Scottish clan convince us of her claim to be one million percent Scottish, born on the Scottish Isle of Skye.  The child interviewing the mother becomes not only an amazing life story of the parent, but is also about the child and how that child came to truly know her mother.  Nicole was a very real character, with a heart and mind unlike any other, and she was always drawn to that “perfect equatorial light.” I would have liked to meet her, sticky drink in hand, under that tree of forgetfulness.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    If you are visiting Africa , this is an interesting read!

    I read this while on a trip to South Africa and Zimbawe. It gave an insight on living in an adventuresome time and place. I truly enjoyed it.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    Exceedingly delightful

    I adored this book The characters set up camp and live in Your heart.Rare.is a book that causes me to laugh out loud .Even the second time I read it.The author's skill at description and wit are top notch. As soon as I read the final page I bought a copy.for my.daughter and with great delight read it over again It is that good!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    What's this?

    You may have charged me for this book, but I did not order it. Nor did I read it.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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