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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness [Hardcover]

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

Aug. 23 2011
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness tells the story of the author's mother, Nicola Fuller. Nicola Fuller and her husband were a glamorous and optimistic couple and East Africa lay before them with the promise of all its perfect light, even as the British Empire in which they both believed waned. They had everything, including two golden children - a girl and a boy. However, life became increasingly difficult and they moved to Rhodesia to work as farm managers. The previous farm manager had committed suicide. His ghost appeared at the foot of their bed and seemed to be trying to warn them of something. Shortly after this, one of their golden children died. Africa was no longer the playground of Nicola's childhood. They returned to England where the author was born before they returned to Rhodesia and to the civil war. The last part of the book sees the Fullers in their old age on a banana and fish farm in the Zambezi Valley. They had built their ramshackle dining room under the Tree of Forgetfulness. In local custom, this tree is the meeting place for villagers determined to resolve disputes. It is in the spirit of this Forgetfulness that Nicola finally forgot - but did not forgive - all her enemies including her daughter and the Apostle, a squatter who has taken up in her bananas with his seven wives and forty-nine children. Funny, tragic, terrifying, exotic and utterly unself-conscious, this is a story of survival and madness, love and war, passion and compassion.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Review

Praise for Cocktail Hour: '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. Kristine Huntley, Booklist Praise for Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: 'Like Frank McCourt, Fuller writes with devastating humour and directness about desperate circumstances.' Telegraph 'As unflinching and honestly told as any White African dares write... ultimately ...a love letter to a continent and its people who will never reciprocate.' Richard E Grant, author of Withnails About Colton H Bryant (but can be used as 'praise for the author') 'Brilliant, moving and almost a new form - factually true fiction' Andrew Marr, Books of the Year, Observer 30/11 'Fuller writes like a novelist, but her story is true and tragic' Christmas Books, The Times 30/11 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969 and in 1972 she moved with her family to a farm in Rhodesia. After the civil war there in 1981, the Fullers moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. She now lives in Wyoming and has three children. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 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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1 of 1 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 500 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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1 of 2 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  166 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.
89 of 98 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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