Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

by Alexandra Fuller


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Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year 

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa and to her unforgettable family, whom readers first met in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. At the heart of this family, and central to the lifeblood of her latest story, is Fuller’s iconically courageous mother, Nicola (or, Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she sometimes prefers to be known). Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye to a warlike clan of highlanders and raised in Kenya's perfect equatorial light, Nicola holds dear the values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. With a lifetime of admiration behind her and after years of interviews and research, Fuller has recaptured her mother's inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, exotic, terrifying and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.

We see Nicola as an irrepressible child in western Kenya, then with the man who fell in love with her, Tim Fuller.  The young couple begin their life in a lavender colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid honeyed light, even as the British empire in which they both once believed wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the Fullers find themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow Tim and Nicola as they hopscotch the continent, restlessly trying to establish a home, from Kenya to Rhodesia to Zambia, even returning to England briefly. War, hardship and tragedy seem to follow the family even as Nicola fights to hold onto 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  - and Tim's acceptance of her love for this earth - that revives and nurtures her.

A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author’s family and of the price of being possessed by this uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land. In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a table under their Tree of Forgetfulness in the Zambezi Valley on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days. In local custom, the Tree of Forgetfulness is where villagers meet to resolve disputes and it is here that the family at last find an African kind of peace. Following the ghosts and dreams of memory, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is Alexandra Fuller at her very best.

Alexandra Fuller is also the author of the forthcoming novel, Quiet Until the Thaw

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143121343
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 185,908
Product dimensions: 5.04(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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.


Wilson, Wyoming

Date of Birth:

March 29, 1969

Place of Birth:

Glossop, Derbyshire, England


B. A., Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1992

Read an Excerpt

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa Learns to Fly

Our Mum—or Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she has on occasion preferred to introduce herself—has wanted a writer in the family as long as either of us can remember, not only because she loves books and has therefore always wanted to appear in them (the way she likes large, expensive hats, and likes to appear in them) but also because she has always wanted to live a fabulously romantic life for which she needed a reasonably pliable witness as scribe.

“At least she didn’t read you Shakespeare in the womb,” my sister says. “I think that’s what gave me brain damage.”

“You do not have brain damage,” I say.

“That’s what Mum says.”

“Well, I wouldn’t listen to her. You know what she’s like,” I say.

“I know,” Vanessa says.

“For example,” I say, “lately, she’s been telling me that I must have been switched at birth.”

“Really?” Vanessa tilts her head this way and that to get a better view of my features. “Let me have a look at your nose from the other side.”

“Stop it,” I cover my nose.

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

Customer Reviews

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Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Stazio More than 1 year ago
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.
EHB More than 1 year ago
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.
san-k More than 1 year ago
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.
sfsd More than 1 year ago
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.
Rissers More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As soon as I finished the book I immediately bought another one she wrote.
TassieLynne More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book that brings you a good feeling of Life in Africa.
bgKY More than 1 year ago
Good but not great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
RanMorrissett More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Prinzez_W More than 1 year ago
An excellent writer. The read places you right their with her. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" 3 times. This is the necessary other side of the story. Things look so different to a child and there can be so many questions left unanswered. How wonderful to get to see these events from her mother's side. I loved both books. Thank you to Ms. Fuller, for sharing her family's story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tishbit777 More than 1 year ago
I adored this book The characters set up camp and live in Your 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!