“This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over.”—Newsweek
“By turns mischievous and openhearted, earthy and soaring . . . hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling.”—The New Yorker
Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight 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.
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.
Praise for Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
“Riveting . . . [full of] humor and compassion.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“The incredible story of an incredible childhood.”—The Providence Journal
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.73(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Date of Birth:March 29, 1969
Place of Birth:Glossop, Derbyshire, England
Education:B. A., Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1992
Read an Excerpt
Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping."
"We might shoot you."
"Okay." As it is, there seems a good enough chance of getting shot on purpose. "Okay, I won't."
So if I wake in the night and need Mum and Dad, I call Vanessa,
because she isn't armed. "Van! Van, hey!" I hiss across the room until she wakes up. And then Van has to light a candle and escort me to the loo, where I pee sleepily into the flickering yellow light and
Van keeps the candle high, looking for snakes and scorpions and baboon spiders.
Mum won't kill snakes because she says they help to keep the rats down (but she rescued a nest of baby mice from the barns and left them to grow in my cupboard, where they ate holes in the family's winter jerseys). Mum won't kill scorpions either; she catches them and lets them go free in the pool and Vanessa and I have to rake the pool before we can swim. We fling the scorps as far as we can across the brown and withering lawn, chase the ducks and geese out, and then lower ourselves gingerly into the pool, whose sides wave green and long and soft and grasping with algae. And Mum won't kill spiders because she says it will bring bad luck.
I tell her, "I'd say we have pretty rotten luck as it is."
"Then think how much worse it would be if we killed spiders."
I have my feet off the floor when I pee.
"Hurry up, man."
"It's like Victoria Falls."
"I really had to go."
I have been holding my pee for a long, long time and staring out the window to try and guess how close it is to morning. Maybe I could hold it until morning. But then I notice that it is the deep-black-sky quiet time of night, which is the halfway time between the sun setting and the sun rising when even the night animals are quiet-as if they, like day animals, take a break in the middle of their work to rest. I can't hear Vanessa breathing; she has gone into her deep middle-of-the-night silence. Dad is not snoring nor is he shouting in his sleep. The baby is still in her crib but the smell of her is warm and animal with wet nappy. It will be a long time until morning.
Then Vanessa hands me the candle-"You keep boogies for me now"-and she pees.
"See, you had to go, too."
"Only 'cos you had to."
There is a hot breeze blowing through the window, the cold sinking night air shifting the heat of the day up. The breeze has trapped midday scents; the prevalent cloying of
the leach field, the green soap which has spilled out from the laundry and landed on the patted-down red earth, the wood smoke from the fires that heat our water, the boiled-meat smell of dog food.
We debate the merits of flushing the loo.
"We shouldn't waste the water." Even when there isn't a drought we can't waste water, just in case one day there is a drought. Anyway,
Dad has said, "Steady on with the loo paper, you kids. And don't flush the bloody loo all the time. The leach field can't handle it."
"But that's two pees in there."
"So? It's only pee."
"Agh sis, man, but it'll be smelly by tomorrow. And you peed as much as a horse."
"It's not my fault."
"You can flush."
"I'll hold the candle."
Van holds the candle high. I lower the toilet lid, stand on it and lift up the block of hardwood that covers the cistern, and reach down for the chain. Mum has glued a girlie-magazine picture to this block of hardwood: a blond woman in few clothes, with breasts like naked cow udders, and she's all arched in a strange pouty contortion, like she's got backache. Which maybe she has, from the weight of the udders. The picture is from Scope magazine.
We aren't allowed to look at Scope magazine.
"Because we aren't those sorts of people," says Mum.
"But we have a picture from Scope magazine on the loo lid."
"That's a joke."
"Oh." And then, "What sort of joke?"
"Stop twittering on."
A pause. "What sort of people are we, then?"
"We have breeding," says Mum firmly.
"Oh." Like the dairy cows and our special expensive bulls (who are named Humani, Jack, and Bulawayo).
"Which is better than having money," she adds.
I look at her sideways, considering for a moment. "I'd rather have money than breeding," I say.
Mum says, "Anyone can have money." As if it's something you might pick up from the public toilets in OK Bazaar Grocery Store in Umtali.
"Ja, but we don't."
Mum sighs. "I'm trying to read, Bobo."
"Can you read to me?"
Mum sighs again. "All right," she says, "just one chapter." But it is teatime before we look up from The Prince and the Pauper.
The loo gurgles and splutters, and then a torrent of water shakes down, spilling slightly over the bowl.
"Sis, man," says Vanessa.
You never know what you're going to get with this loo. Sometimes it refuses to flush at all and other times it's like this, water on your feet.
I follow Vanessa back to the bedroom. The way candlelight falls,
we're walking into blackness, blinded by the flame of the candle,
unable to see our feet. So at the same moment we get the creeps, the neck-prickling terrorist-under-the-bed creeps, and we abandon ourselves to fear. The candle blows out. We skid into our room and leap for the beds, our feet quickly tucked under us. We're both panting, feeling foolish, trying to calm our breathing as if we weren't scared at all.
Vanessa says, "There's a terrorist under your bed, I can see him."
"No you can't, how can you see him? The candle's out."
And I start to cry.
"Jeez, I'm only joking."
I cry harder.
"Shhh, man. You'll wake up Olivia. You'll wake up Mum and Dad."
Which is what I'm trying to do, without being shot. I want everyone awake and noisy to chase away the terrorist-under-my-bed.
"Here," she says, "you can sleep with Fred if you stop crying."
So I stop crying and Vanessa pads over the bare cement floor and brings me the cat, fast asleep in a snail-circle on her arms. She puts him on the pillow and I put an arm over the vibrating, purring body. Fred finds my earlobe and starts to suck. He's always sucked our earlobes. Our hair is sucked into thin, slimy, knotted ropes near the ears.
Mum says, "No wonder you have worms all the time."
I lie with my arms over the cat, awake and waiting. African dawn,
noisy with animals and the servants and Dad waking up and a tractor coughing into life somewhere down at the workshop, clutters into the room. The bantam hens start to crow and stretch, tumbling out of their roosts in the tree behind the bathroom to peck at the reflection of themselves in the window. Mum comes in smelling of
Vicks VapoRub and tea and warm bed and scoops the sleeping baby up to her shoulder.
I can hear July setting tea on the veranda and I can smell the first,
fresh singe of Dad's morning cigarette. I balance Fred on my shoulder and come out for tea: strong with no sugar, a splash of milk, the way
Mum likes it. Fred has a saucer of milk.
"Morning, Chookies," says Dad, not looking at me, smoking. He is looking far off into the hills, where the border between Rhodesia and
Mozambique melts blue-gray, even in the pre-hazy clear of early morning.
"Sleep all right?"
"Like a log," I tell him. "You?"
Dad grunts, stamps out his cigarette, drains his teacup, balances his bush hat on his head, and strides out into the yard to make the most of the little chill the night has left us with which to fight the gathering soupy heat of day.
To begin with, before Independence, I am at school with white children only. "A" schools, they are called: superior schools with the best teachers and facilities. The black children go to "C"
schools. In-between children who are neither black nor white (Indian or a mixture of races) go to "B" schools.
The Indians and coloureds (who are neither completely this nor completely that) and blacks are allowed into my school the year I
turn eleven, when the war is over. The blacks laugh at me when they see me stripped naked after swimming or tennis, when my shoulders and arms are angry sunburnt red.
"Argh! I smell roasting pork!" they shriek.
"Who fried the bacon?"
My God, I am the wrong color. The way I am burned by the sun,
scorched by flinging sand, prickled by heat. The way my skin erupts in miniature volcanoes of protest in the presence of tsetse flies,
mosquitoes, ticks. The way I stand out against the khaki bush like a large marshmallow to a gook with a gun. White. African. White-African.
"But what are you?" I am asked over and over again.
"Where are you from originally?"
I began then, embarking from a hot, dry boat.
Blinking bewildered from the sausage-gut of a train.
Arriving in Rhodesia, Africa. From Derbyshire, England. I was two years old, startled and speaking toddler English. Lungs shocked by thick, hot, humid air. Senses crushed under the weight of so many stimuli.
I say, "I'm African." But not black.
And I say, "I was born in England," by mistake.
But, "I have lived in Rhodesia (which is now Zimbabwe) and in Malawi
(which used to be Nyasaland) and in Zambia (which used to be Northern
And I add, "Now I live in America," through marriage.
And (full disclosure), "But my parents were born of Scottish and
What does that make me?
Mum doesn't know who she is, either.
She stayed up all night once listening to Scottish music and crying.
"This music"-her nose twitches-"is so beautiful. It makes me homesick."
Mum has lived in Africa all but three years of her life.
"But this is your home."
"But my heart"-Mum attempts to thump her chest-"is Scottish."
Oh, fergodsake. "You hated England," I point out.
Mum nods, her head swinging, like a chicken with a broken neck.
"You're right," she says. "But I love Scotland."
"What," I ask, challenging, "do you love about Scotland?"
"Oh the . . . the . . ." Mum frowns at me, checks to see if I'm tricking her. "The music," she says at last, and starts to weep again. Mum hates Scotland. She hates drunk-driving laws and the cold.
The cold makes her cry, and then she comes down with malaria.
Her eyes are half-mast. That's what my sister and I call it when Mum is drunk and her eyelids droop. Half-mast eyes. Like the flag at the post office whenever someone important dies, which in Zambia, with one thing and another, is every other week. Mum stares out at the home paddocks where the cattle are coming in for their evening water to the trough near the stables. The sun is full and heavy over the hills that describe the Zambia-Zaire border. "Have a drink with me,
Bobo," she offers. She tries to pat the chair next to hers, misses,
and feebly slaps the air, her arm like a broken wing.
I shake my head. Ordinarily I don't mind getting softly drunk next to the slowly collapsing heap that is Mum, but I have to go back to boarding school the next day, nine hours by pickup across the border to Zimbabwe. "I need to pack, Mum."
That afternoon Mum had spent hours wrapping thirty feet of electric wire around the trees in the garden so that she could pick up the
World Service of the BBC. The signature tune crackled over the syrup-yellow four o'clock light just as the sun was starting to hang above the top of the msasa trees. " 'Lillibulero,' " Mum said.
"You're not Irish," I pointed out.
She said, "Never said I was." And then, follow-on thought, "Where's the whisky?"
We must have heard "Lillibulero" thousands of times. Maybe millions.
Before and after every news broadcast. At the top of every hour.
Spluttering with static over the garden at home; incongruous from the branches of acacia trees in campsites we have set up in the bush across the countryside; singing from the bathroom in the evening.
But you never know what will set Mum off. Maybe it was "Lillibulero"
coinciding with the end of the afternoon, which is a rich, sweet,
cooling, melancholy time of day.
"Your Dad was English originally," I tell her, not liking the way this is going.
She said, "It doesn't count. Scottish blood cancels English blood."
By the time she has drunk a quarter of a bottle of whisky, we have lost reception from Bush House in London and the radio hisses to itself from under its fringe of bougainvillea. Mum has pulled out her old Scottish records. There are three of them. Three records of men in kilts playing bagpipes. The photographs show them marching blindly
(how do they see under those dead-bear hats?) down misty Scottish cobbled streets, their faces completely blocked by their massive instruments. Mum turns the music up as loud as it will go, takes the whisky out to the veranda, and sits cross-legged on a picnic chair,
humming and staring out at the night-blanketed farm.
This cross-leggedness is a hangover from the brief period in Mum's life when she took up yoga from a book. Which was better than the brief period in her life in which she explored the possibility of converting to the Jehovah's Witnesses. And better than the time she bought a book on belly-dancing at a rummage sale and tried out her techniques on every bar north of the Limpopo River and south of the equator.
The horses shuffle restlessly in their stables. The night apes scream from the tops of the shimmering-leafed msasa trees. The dogs set up in a chorus of barking and will not stop until we put them inside,
all except Mum's faithful spaniel, who will not leave her side even when she's throwing what Dad calls a wobbly. Which is what this is: a wobbly. The radio hisses and occasionally, drunkenly, bursts into snatches of song (Spanish or Portuguese) or chatters in German, in
Afrikaans, or in an exaggerated American accent. "This is the Voice of America." And then it swoops, "Beee-ooooeee!"
Reading Group Guide
1. Fuller compares the smell of Africa to "black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass." She describes "an explosion of day birds . . . a crashing of wings" and "the sound of heat. The grasshoppers and crickets sing and whine. Drying grass crackles. Dogs pant." How effective is the author in drawing the reader into her world with the senses of sound, and smell, and taste? Can you find other examples of her ability to evoke a physical and emotional landscape that pulses with life? What else makes her writing style unique?
2. Given their dangerous surroundings in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia and a long streak of what young Bobo describes as "bad, bad luck," why does the Fuller family remain in Africa?
3. Drawing on specific examples, such as Nicola Fuller's desire to "live in a country where white men still ruled" and the Fuller family's dramatic interactions with African squatters, soldiers, classmates, neighbors, and servants, how would you describe the racial tensions and cultural differences portrayed in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, particularly between black Africans and white Africans?
4. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is rich with humorous scenes and dialogue, such as the visit by two missionaries who are chased away by the family's overfriendly dogs, a bevy of ferocious fleas, and the worst tea they have ever tasted. What other examples of comedy can you recall, and what purpose do you think they serve in this serious memoir?
5. Fuller describes the family's move to Burma Valley as landing them "right [in] the middle, the very birthplace and epicenter, of the civil war in Rhodesia." Do her youthful impressions give a realistic portrait of the violent conflict?
6. The New York Times Book Review described Nicola as "one of the most memorable characters of African memoir." What makes the author's portrait of her mother so vivid? How would you describe Bobo's father?
7. Define the complex relationship between Bobo and Vanessa. How do the two sisters differ in the ways that they relate to their parents?
8. Animals are ever present in the book. How do the Fullers view their domesticated animals, as compared to the wild creatures that populate their world?
9. Of five children born to Nicola Fuller, only two survive. "All people know that in one way or the other the dead must be laid to rest properly," Alexandra Fuller writes. Discuss how her family deals with the devastating loss of Adrian, Olivia, and Richard. Are they successful in laying their ghosts to rest?
10. According to Bobo, "Some Africans believe that if your baby dies, you must bury it far away from your house, with proper magic and incantations and gifts for the gods, so that the baby does not come back." Later, at Devuli Ranch, soon after the narrator and her sister have horrified Thompson, the cook, by disturbing an old gravesite, Bobo's father announces that he is going fishing: "If the fishing is good, we'll stay here and make a go of it. If the fishing is bad, we'll leave." What role does superstition play in this book? Look for examples in the behavior and beliefs of both black and white Africans.
11. Consider Fuller's interactions with black Africans, including her nanny in Rhodesia and the children she plays "boss and boys" with, as well as with Cephas the tracker and, later, the first black African to invite her into his home. Over the course of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, how does the narrator change and grow?
12. By the end of the narrative, how do you think the author feels about Africa? Has the book changed your own perceptions about this part of the world?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My husband and I actually read this book together. We would get ourselves a cup of coffee and head out to our deck every morning during the summer with this delightful book in hand. We were so engaged with "Bobo" and her entire family that we couldn't wait to get started each day. When we finished the book, we were actually saddened that we wouldn't have another day in which to share this wonderful read. We laughed till we cried as Alexandra Fuller told her delightful stories about her mother, her father, sister, and the others who lived with and helped this fascinating family. We also cried when tragedy struck. We felt as though we knew these people and shared in their sorrows as they faced them throughout their lives. We truly loved this book and just wanted it to go on and on. Thank you, Alexandra Fuller, for giving us such a fond memory. My only regret is that there isn't a sequel. It's been a long time since I read a book that I enjoyed this much.
This was a really compelling memoir, brutally honest and beautifully insightful. Alexandra is a fascinating woman whom I would love to meet and talk with. I have not read her other book... but someday it will make it into my very large pile! My criteria for what makes a "good read" are: hooks me in the first 10 pages, opens my eyes to a new point of view, teaches me something about another culture or part of the world, makes me want to learn more. This book hit them all hands down!
An amazing story that reveals the harsh realities of life for the poor in several African countries during the 1970s. Written as a memoir and dedicated to the author's mother, this book would be appreciated by those interested in African life, manic-depression, alcoholism, poverty, farm life, race relations or people who enjoy stories with a wry, dark sense of humor. This book is not written with the sense of balance or thoroughness one might find in a textbook, but rather it is a collection of stories that describe how one family coped with the extreme poverty and the political upheaval of 1970s Africa. By turns it is sad, desperate, intimate, bittersweet, and funny as hell. It will surely evoke some strong emotions in anyone who reads it.
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller portrays a different perspective on life. Alexandra is a young girl living in Africa and she does not live an ordinary life. Alexandra lives with her family in a small city in Africa. This house consists of two rooms and zero bathrooms for a family of five. After just one month of her baby brother being born, he passes away from a horrible disease. Her mother struggles with this loss and progressively gets more depressed as life goes on. Alexandra is accustomed to hunger, drought, malaria, and fighting guerrillas that represent colonial Africa. Her family not only is a victim of racism, but they are guilty of being racist as well. Although Alexandra's family is struggling during such hard times, she has no problem finding laughter in her life. Alexandra looks past all of the terrible situations she has been put through and lives life to the fullest. She looks at her past and discovers love during her journey. This book sends many messages. One prominent message in this book is courage. I believe that Alexandra had been put through many tough situations and she overcame all of the troubles that her family had. Alexandra stared down disaster and made the best of what she could. One thing that I really liked about the book is the imagery. Fuller portrayed the environment and time period that they were in and I enjoyed being put into Alexander's situation. One thing that stood out to me in a negative way was how slow the book started off. It was hard to understand Fuller's language. I recommend this book to all teenagers. Teenagers typically think pessimistically about their own lives and they usually do not see that some people are living in Africa with diseases, have no food or home, or even do not have an income. Another book that relates to this is A Child Called 'It' by Dave Peltzer. A Child Called 'It' is similar in many ways because of the situations he must overcome. Dave was beaten as a child by his mother, yet still found a way to enjoy life and make the best out of his situations. Overall, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight was a well written book.
This author also wrote Scribbling the cat. This book describes some interesting events and the underlying hardship faced by white family in southern africa. It is a personal biography/diary more than a cultural critique.
This book is an easy read. Once I started to read it I could not put it down. The author is very descriptive when recalling the accounts of her life. She includes so much detail it's like watching a movie. She paints a picture in your mind with each page. It is a must read.
I really liked this book. It was sad, funny and just a wonderful story.
I hope that the many who have read and lauded this book don't think that all Rhodesians, 'White' or 'Black' are like those portrayed in this book. I feel like writing a rebuttal to this work in a way - and calling it 'Do let's go to the dogs tonight!'... only no-one would want to read it. It wouldn't be a point by point debate in answer to Ms Fuller's recollections, (that would not interest me). My story of the halcyon days of my childhood in Africa would be no less 'brutal' but hopefully more balanced, in proper context and truthful. Africa is a magnificent continent and the countries in which I have lived are peopled with characters that go beyond a mawkish mixture of personal tragedy and a personal history that I think is used,unsuccessfully, to excuse bad behaviour, racialism and add grist to a mill that is inaccurate, disjointed and exaggerated. Further, being an ex-Rhodesian around 10 years older than the writer, I see no good in the naive political commentary that has no context really other than to make the reader think they understand Africa, Rhodesia, African politics and rule or life on the dark continent, or to 'faga moto' to an already cockeyed view of Africans, Black, Coloured or White. But then perhaps that was what the wiriter wanted. Or maybe she just wrote a story and was suprised at the response of the non-African reading public? Who can really know? I happened to have been born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), lived and schooled in Southern Rhodesia and Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) and now live in South Africa. Thank heavens my parents worked hard (they too went without food to protect and care for us three children), they were not drunks, and I did not have a childhood filled with ticks, worms and fleas. Please understand, this did not represent Rhodesia for everyone - there was love, respect, understanding and care between all people (both Black and White) when I was growing up ... but then I suppose I was the lucky one. Yes there was a war, yes, in a war horror abounds, yes there are two (?) sides to every question, yes there is enmity between peoples, but to take Ms Fuller's account as a standard interpretation of these times and to fete it as I have read above, well that saddens. I wonder how many of those critics have actually been to Africa in general and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in particular. Read 'A story of an African Farm'... now there's a story about Africa that's more honest by far.
Alexandra Fuller's memoir, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, is a unique reflection on growing up as the daughter of a white farmer during a time of social and political upheaval in Africa. The author excels at illustrating the unique hardships her family endures, the complex world of racial relations that defined her childhood experiences, and a love of the people and places she was raised that transcends it's violence and danger. The chief strength of this memoir is it's completeness; all to often memoirs feel like they've been edited to carefully conceal or disguise the less palatable aspects of one's own choices. Fuller doesn't shy away from these - from her parents' hostility towards Black Africans in government, their drinking problems, or the complex relationships that exist between her and the Africans hired to serve her family. These features can make the text uncomfortable to read at times for a modern American reader, but is an important part of the story. Fuller also does a remarkable job addressing the trauma of stillbirth and miscarriage from a child's perspective, a feat rarely accomplished in fiction or memoirs! I also greatly appreciate that the book closes on a sense of stability with an open and positive outlook towards the future, despite the many challenges the family has endured. I did struggle with some aspects of how the story was conveyed. The author's age isn't always well conveyed in the story, and her level of insight into what's happening around her is highly variable. I appreciate that this reflects the author's attempts to balance her adult interpretations of her past with her ideas about her childhood understanding, but the result is somewhat confusing at times. Similarly, the attention to peripheral details is occasionally distracting. While in most of the book it helps build the scenery, I sometimes felt derailed by them and wanting more details (e.g., there's a neighbor boy who sets cats on fire who is mentioned once and then evaporates from the story). Lastly, there is one blind spot in the memoir that I'd love to see more about - the author's sister. While she is present throughout the book, we often see her with less clarity and insight than we do the author or her parents. Overall, I found the book fascinating and informing. It provides a unique perspective and shows good insight on the part of the author.
Such an enjoyable read. I ate it up and will be pondering on it for sometime.
It took a good 80 pages to truly get interested in the story and used to the author's style. But after that, I enjoyed the book. Very interesting and informative. I knew NOTHING about Africa....this was very eye-opening! I enjoyed it enough to go on and read her recent "sequel." IT moved a little faster...but I suppose that's because I knew the characters and her style.
I started reading this in South Africa (second trip with more to follow) while visiting family (expats). From Pretoria we self drive so we get to see parts of Africa others never experience, plus we get to "visit" with the people of Africa...African, Afrikaner, and British. Our son and his family have a diverse group of friends and acquaintances; and it is fascinating to just sit and listen to each person's perspective and observe their interaction. Fascinating book with crazy, funny, heartbreaking vignettes throughout. Yes, Africa gets into some folks' blood (my son a little I think). Despite all my past and present obsession with Africa I know, after reading this book and then right after...Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness...I am not one of them. Much as I love to visit Africa, the romanticism has worn off. It is a continent that needs the crazy adventurism of Nicola and Tim Fuller.
the author's frankness and dry humor are totally captivating. she lets bare facts speak for themselves without moralizing or attempting to go beyond the scope of one little white girl's African experience.
Being raised in the city in the U.S. would not prepare you for life like growing up in Africa during the Rhodesian war. From the cigarette smoking and beer drinking to being taught to tend wounds and deliver babies in school as an eight-year old, Bobo's upbringing was anything but traditional. I envied her and pitied her at the same time. What an exciting and scary time to be a white child in Africa. A great book!
There was a lot of good hype for this book, but I just didn't get it. What could have been an interesting story was hard to follow. I'm still trying to figure this book out, even after our book club discussed it.
This is a remarkable memoir of a white African child growing up during the in Rhodesianduring civil war. She relates the trials of her daily life, the family problems, the racism, the horrors of an entire continent as they move from the country. I found it fascinating, especially since I have an uncle who grew up and lived in Rhodesia during the same period.
This book was just okay. I typically gravitate towards non-fiction but I wasn't impressed with this story. I kept waiting for something to happen but the story did not keep my interest throughout.
This is a book about an amazing, flawed, fascinating family and their life as whites in various African countries undergoing assorted upheavals. Over and over I was puzzled by the family's tenacity, when I would likely have thrown up my hands and returned to Europe. They lived in a land that was harsh, farmed areas that were not consistently arable, and resided in places where they were not welcome, but they refuesed to give up. Part of this was their belief in the superiority of their race (at least in the case of Fuller's mother), but ultimately I suppose it was a hold that the land itself had on them.Fuller illustrates her own growth from childish parroting of her parents' attitudes to more mature thinking for herself about the complexities of life on the African continent. Her narrative is a bit disjointed, and I could not be sure about where in the timeline I was sometimes. And the vignettes she shares certainly give an incomplete picture of her life. Near the end of the book, during the description of her wedding, she mentions school friends and family friends from past residences. I was surprised by this; from the way her story is told, her family seemed to me to be isolated and unlikely to maintain ties over long distances, and she did not mention any close friends from school or elsewhere. Obviously there is much that is left unsaid.All in all, I found this book to be interesting and engaging, telling the story of a rich, eventful, heartbreaking, and full life.
I love memoirs, and this one, written by a young woman the same age as my older son, is one of the best I have read in years. I will not soon forget the brave and eccentric Fuller family - and the beautiful writing - of Alexandra "Bobo" Fuller's DON"T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT. If you want to know about the lingering colonialism, ongoing civil wars, revolution and savagery of modern south central Africa, I recommend this book enthusiastically.
The tone of this memoir of "an African childhood" is set in the very first lines:Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping.""Why not?""We might shoot you.""Oh.""By mistake.""Okay." As it is, there seems a good enough chance of getting shot on purpose. "Okay, I won't."Dangerous, slightly insane, quite funny. That's her childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). My first impression of her family? Well, I thought it proof that parents are put here on Earth to completely embarrass their children. I know this. Yet I thought Alexandra Fuller's parents really took the prize and it was a good thing she had such a great sense of humor. Fuller doesn't pull any punches--not about the violence, corruption and poverty she often saw in Africa, nor her parents' racist views nor her mother's alcoholism. Yet Fuller said in an afterword that this story "unfurled as a love story about Africa and my family." And by the end I absolutely saw that. Despite mercilessly (and often hilariously) exposing her parents flaws, there's evident affection and respect there, and gradually I began to see why. At the same time, this was just a joy to read. Fuller has a sharp wit, and an eye for details that bring South Central Africa to life--the sounds, the smells, the wildlife, the clashes between her little Eurocentric colonial world and that of native Africans and the ability to reacquaint you with the mindset of childhood. Part travelogue of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, part history of the waning of the colonial era, part affecting coming of age tale, I was hooked from the beginning and never was there one paragraph I wanted to skip over. I was completely charmed.
I thought this book was interesting. Many times as I was reading, I couldn't understand why Bobo's family would want to stay in Africa. She wrote with an unasuming tone, never complaining as if what was happening to them was quite normal. I also like books with pictures. Recommended
Finally, my gosh, I've had this forever. This is a memoir written by the daughter of British ex-pats who grew up in (then) Rhodesia. I found it fascinating, plenty of details about a daily life that could not possibly be more different from my own. I was not expecting, but ended up liking, her style of picking and choosing anecdotes that are roughly, but not exactly, linear in time and not always clearly related to one another. At first, I was thinking "but why are you telling about this and what does it have to do with that?" but once I got in the groove, I thought it was used to good effect, style-wise. Her parents are of the drunk and kooky kind, not quite as dire as something like The Glass Castle, but enough. It's hard to suss out to what extent those situations were the result of their individual personalities, or the things that happened to them, or their age or upbringing or whatever, but that's okay.Probably my favorite aspect of this is that she doesn't go into a lot of hang-wringing or over-explanation on the many and hideous race and culture issues that were playing out in Africa during this time (60s, 70s, 80s). My impression is that she felt it would insult everyone's intelligence by pointing out OH WOW THAT WAS PROBLEMATIC every other paragraph, so she is really just reporting out on what was going on and how it was experienced by the white society in which she lived. She puts everything out there, and that helps communicate both the good and the bad.
good. interesting, at times depressing
I just finished this most astonishing book! And I started crying. It ends with a tribute to one of the author's siblings, three of whom die in infancy or early childhood. I read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight because my book group is reading Alexandra Fuller's latest book, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness; what a great title! And I wanted to read this book to explore Fuller's childhood first. That's Alexandra Fuller, called Bobo, on the cover of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs. The photograph was taken in England, but soon the family returns to Africa, where her mother was born, and a life that was rough in England becomes life-threatening in Rhodesia. They trade one haardscrabble farm for another. But life in Africa is much, much harsher and more dangerous. After reading the book, I'm surprised that any of the family survived. Don't Let's Go frequently reminded of another hair-raising tale of Anglos in Africa, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. While reading both books, I kept thinking, "What were those parents thinking? This is child abuse. Go home." But the family in Kingsolver's book is from the U.S. and could go "home." The Fullers are "home." They are not going back to England. They move from farm to farm in Central Africa, often barely scratching out a living. This is home. And Bobo Fuller loves it. The worst parts were during the time the family lived in war-torn Rhodesia, soon to become Zimbabwe. Everyone's life was in danger all of the time. Plus, they were hungry and worm-infested to boot. And the parents are raging alcoholics. But Fuller tells the story so dispassionately that the reader has the realization that like most kids who live in unimaginably horrible conditions, this was her life. She loved her family and she wanted to be with them, whereever they were. She rarely glimpsed a different kind of life; most of the people they knew lived the same way. But not everyone. Occasionally, she visited relatives who lived a more middle-class "English" kind of life, and she enjoyed it, but she was also an outsider. Bobo didn't really fit into that world. Fuller's parents called this book "that Awful Book." With caps. But its publication did not lead to some blow-up in the family. They are all still speaking to one another. Why? Because no matter how shocking and horrible, Bobo survived and thrived in Central Africa. The book in infused with her love for Africa and for her family. Her deep understanding of her mother's mental illness. Her acceptance -- or maybe forgiveness -- of her parents' drinking and neglect. They all lived a very hard life; her parents are still in Zambia. Although by the end of Don't Let's Go their lives seem to be a little more financially secure, they are still living at the very edge of the very edge of civilization in Zambia. No place I would want to be. But for Tim and Nicola Fuller, it's home.