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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Alexandra Fuller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
In this tour-de-force sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa with the story of her unforgettable family.

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multi-layered narrative around the Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war-torn Africa of her own childhood. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola Fuller holds dear the kinds of 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.

Fuller captures her mother's distinctive voice with remarkable precision, rendering a life story that is as funny, terrifying, exotic and unselfconscious as Nicola herself. We see Nicola and Tim Fuller in their honeymoon period, when East Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid equatorial light, even as the British Empire wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the couple find themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow the Fullers as they run from war and unspeakable heartbreak, from Kenya to Rhodesia to Zambia, even returning to England briefly. But just when it seems that Nicola has been broken entirely by Africa, it is the African earth itself that revives her.

In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a coffee table under their Tree of Forgetfulness on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days. In local custom, the Tree is where villagers meet to resolve disputes--and it is here that the Fullers 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.

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Review

A New York Times Notable Book

“[An] electrifying new memoir. . . . Writing in shimmering, musical prose, Ms. Fuller creates portraits of her mother, father and various eccentric relatives that are as indelible and resonant as the family portraits in classic contemporary memoirs like Mary Karr’s Liars’ Club and Andre Aciman’s Out of Egypt.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Rewarding. . . . 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.”
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
 
“Another stunner. . . . Alexandra Fuller, master memoirist, brings her readers new pleasure.”
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Fuller achieves another beautifully wrought memoir.”
—Publishers Weekly
 
“Fuller’s prose is so beautiful and so evocative that readers will feel that they, too, are sitting under [the Tree of Forgetfulness]. A gorgeous tribute to both her parents and the land they love.”
—Booklist

Praise for Alexandra Fuller:
“Fuller is a brave writer who pushes the boundaries of her genre.”
—The Telegraph
 
“A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey [Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight]. . . Fuller’s book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come.”
— Publishers Weekly

About the Author

ALEXANDRA FULLER was born in England in 1969. She moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with her family when she was two. After that country's war of independence (1980) her family moved first to Malawi and then to Zambia where she met her husband. Fuller received a BA from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, and in 2007 she received an honorary doctorate in letters from that institution. In 1994, she move to the United States. She now lives in Wyoming with her husband, two daughters and son.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mushie Sterek March 28 2012
By Nymanza
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fantastic, Loved every page, I had a similar life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and could relate to all the happenings and incidents in the book.
A must read for all Africans
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Mother Knows Best' Jan. 27 2012
Format:Hardcover
What a well written book! Kudos to the author. She has introduced me to her family and managed to arouse in me three emotions, anger , frustration and finally empathy.
Her characters are so vivid that at times i found myself arguing out loud with the parents or trying to soothe the daughters. It does go to prove how resilient children are in the most dire of circumstances as long as Mommy and Daddy love them. It was my second experience reading about life in Central Africa and very educational because it was so personal.
Read the sequel also 'Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight ' by Alexandra Fuller. Order the two of them together read 'Cocktail ' first( Mommy's point of view ) then Dogs
(Daughters' point of view).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional land Sept. 20 2012
By little lady blue TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I read somewhere that much of the same material is covered in a previous book. Since I didn't read it I can't judge.

For most of this book it feels as if Ms. Fuller jotted down some notes & anecdotes & then decided to write a book, but didn't take the trouble to organize the text into a focused manuscript.
The book is jumpy - that is - jumps from one thing to another & not in a smooth & cohesive way.

Her parents sound like perfectly stalwart, courageous people albeit a bit quirky. One thing for sure which I found endearing throughout is their unequivocal love for each other. We should all be so lucky to have parents like that. Her mother refers to the previous book as the `Awful Book' so perhaps this is to make amends. (?)

Unfortunately, I feel there could be some exaggerations involved here & even some events feel more `fiction' than fact...but then, who am I to say? I was not there. I did feel I learned some things about Africa that I did not know before & for that I'm glad I read the book. Part 3 really was the best part of all.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Jan. 2 2012
By Quester
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A must read for anyone who ever lived in Africa. Compassionate, funny, sad and so well written. Ms. Fuller at her best.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  180 reviews
116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tree of Forgetfulness is Unforgettable Aug. 24 2011
By Tiger CK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The somewhat eccentrically titled "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" is a memoir interwoven with a history of East Africa after the collapse of British colonial rule there. The book is a sequel to Fuller's widely acclaimed "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight." While in her previous work, Fuller primarily gave us a memoir of her own childhood. In "Cocktail Hour" she is more focused on the story of her mother Nicola. Her mother comes across as a fascinating and extravagant person in the memoir. She was born on a small Scottish isle but spent most of her life living in Africa.

Writing about family is always challenging but I admired Amanda's unsparing portrait of Nicola. She paints her as a woman with a unique zest for life and adventure. At the same time, Fuller does not shy away from describing aspects of her parents' worldview that readers may find detestable. She is rather frank in explaining the way her mother romanticized British colonialism in Africa even as the system was falling apart. And she shows how the lives of her family members were impacted by the rising tide of nationalism and civil war that swept Africa during the 1950s and 1960s.

I personally did not read this book because I was interested in Fuller's family, however. I read it because I was interested in the unique view of Africa during this turbulent period that it provided. There is little good writing about Kenya, Zambia and Rhodesia during the 1950s and 1960s and Fuller's account presented a highly interesting perspective on events. I learned a great deal about what transpired politically and socially on the African continent from reading it. If you are interested in Africa or this genre of memoir writing, I would highly recommend the book.
90 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same book as "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" Sept. 14 2011
By A. Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I loved, loved, loved "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" so I ran out and paid full-price for "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" as soon as I'd heard it was out. As I tore through through the first 100 pages, I wondered when Fuller would get to something new. She tells the same stories of her childhood, from slightly different perspectives and with a few details added or omitted. Yes, we get the voice of her mother in this volume but it didn't really tell the reader anything new or particularly insightful about Nicola Fuller, who dominates and colors the pages of "Don't Lets..." The added family histories of her parents was the most interesting thing in this book (and actually, those parts were in the first 100 pages). Reading the same book ("Don't Lets...") over again but for the first time was delightful to me. But, all in all, I was disappointed. She wrote this book before and I read this book before. It seems like Fuller wanted to re-live the writing and publishing and success of "Don't Let's..." I'd rather just read and re-read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight."
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another side of Africa Sept. 24 2011
By HopewellMom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"There we go then," Mum said, "I'll just get my Uzi and we'll be off...."
"Bullets, lipstick, sunglasses. Off we go...." (p. 28-29).

Alexandra Fuller's family makes you feel much better about your own.

Having lived in the insanity of Kamuzu Banda's Malawi, having watched in horror as Mugabe righted one wrong with another, I rejoice that Ms. Fuller has written another installment in her family's saga. No, it was not right for the Brits to take over Africa and take away from those who were already there. Ms Fuller's story, however, puts a human face on "white Africa"-- not a world not of fanatical white supremasits (of which there were many, many, many) but of hard-working whites who ignored the rights/wrongs and tried to build a life on a continent whose indigenous people are seemingly forever compelled to fight and lose to hold their own land. No one who has not lived there can accurately judge this book. The social mores, the threats to life, the weaknesses of any political system imposed to try to bring someone's definition of "order" have to be lived first-hand to be believed and understood.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cocktail Hour tells more about African politics than author's previous book Jan. 29 2012
By L. Koller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a relatively fast read, and it's the sequel to "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight". It makes the most sense to read the books in this order. This book answers many of the questions the first book left me with, including the history behind the wars in Kenya and Zambia and why the author's parents remained in Africa in spite of mounting tragedies and hardships. The author knows her parents well and has lived with them long enough to understand the bewitching effect the land has on them. Nicola Fuller explains her reason for choosing the less-ordinary life by saying, "What-ifs are the worse kind of post-mortem. And I hate post-mortems. Much better to face the truth, pull up your socks and get on with whatever comes next." As a reader who has not lived through any of this, I still struggle to understand their dogged determination to stay in Central Africa through civil wars, imminent danger, thievery, loss of property, the deaths of 3 children, and sketchy medical care. It amazes me to no end that they stayed there, because it just about killed them.

The author does a great job of capturing her mother's storytelling dialogue and flair for drama throughout the book. I loved the concept of the Tree of Forgetfulness as a place where locals go to resolve their disagreements. What better place to remember and recreate family stories of life in Central Africa? Cocktails drunk underneath the tree of forgetfulness can help make the good memories stronger than the bad.

I recommend this book!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What parents survive Sept. 4 2011
By Fierce & Fond Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I went to a boarding school where I met many daughters from the far-flung Empire, & I'd listen to their stories in awe. So was thrilled when I learnt that Alexandra Fuller had begun writing her Africa memoirs.

This one is about what her Mum & Dad lived through & recounted over many a libation during her return trips to their latest home on the north shore of the Zambezi River. It is also salted with her own memories & those of her older sister telling us of grand & hopeful adventures as well as dire danger, searing sorrow & the occasional Wobbly attack.

In her ebullient voice AF evokes the Africa that entranced this couple who survived grim childhoods ala Robert Louis Stevenson (most of us did = world wide economic depression & then war); found each other in East Africa & created an enduring marriage with multiple pregnancies & deaths, valiant horses & generations of dogs.

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa did not live a politically correct life (so get over it!), however, her daughter's rapturous telling of her parents wonderfilled & fearsome journeys in strange lands during times that were a-changing, guides you through domestic & national upheavals, all the time leaving scents & scenes for you. You also get just the right doses of godawful politics, dry as dust humor, hard won local lore & philosophies.

Babes in the woods, they were, with certain luck to survive to old age, still working & learning & wondering what the next morning will bring, & by evening, sitting under the Tree of Forgetfulness, remembering.

Very well done. Am looking forward to when Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood gets here.
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