Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood Paperback – Mar 11 2003
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Dont Lets go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fullers African childhood. Fuller regards herself "as a daughter of Africa", who spent her early life on farms in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia throughout the turbulent 1970s and 80s, as her parents "fought to keep one country in Africa white-run", but "lost twice" in Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is a profoundly personal story about growing up with a pair of funny, tough, white African settlers, and living with their "sometimes breathlessly illogical decisions", as they move from war-torn Zimbabwe to disease and malnutrition in Malawi, and finally the "beautiful and fertile" land of Zambia.
Central to Fullers book is the intense relations between herself and her parents, a chain-smoking father able to turn round any farm in Africa, her glamorous older sister Vanessa, and the character who sits at the heart of the book, Fullers "fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, surprisingly witty and terrifyingly mad" mother.
Fuller weaves together painful family tragedy with a wider understanding of the ambivalence of being part of a separatist white farming community in the midst of Black African independence. The majority of the book focuses on Fullers early years in war-torn Zimbabwe, with "more history stuffed into its make-believe, colonial-dream borders than one country the size of a very large teapot should be able to amass." This is the most successful dimension of the book, as Fuller describes growing up on farm where her father is away most nights fighting "terrorists", and stripping a rifle takes precedence over school lessons. The sections on Malawi and Zambia are more prosaic, but this is a lyrical and accomplished memoir about Africa, which is "about adjusting to a new world view" and the authors "passionate love for a continent that has come to define, shape, scar and heal me and my family." --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood. Born in England and now living in Wyoming, Fuller was conceived and bred on African soil during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979), a world where children over five "learn[ed] how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill." With a unique and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. Curfews and war, mosquitoes, land mines, ambushes and "an abundance of leopards" are the stuff of this childhood. "Dad has to go out into the bush... and find terrorists and fight them"; Mum saves the family from an Egyptian spitting cobra; they both fight "to keep one country in Africa white-run." The "A" schools ("with the best teachers and facilities") are for white children; "B" schools serve "children who are neither black nor white"; and "C" schools are for black children. Fuller's world is marked by sudden, drastic changes: the farm is taken away for "land redistribution"; one term at school, five white students are "left in the boarding house... among two hundred African students"; three of her four siblings die in infancy; the family constantly sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. But Fuller's remarkable affection for her parents (who are racists) and her homeland (brutal under white and black rule) shines through. This affection, in spite of its subjects' prominent flaws, reveals their humanity and allows the reader direct entry into her world. Fuller's book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come. Photos not seen by PW. (On-sale Dec. 18)Forecast: Like Anne Frank's diary, this work captures the tone of a very young person caught up in her own small world as she witnesses a far larger historical event. It will appeal to those looking for a good story as well as anyone seeking firsthand reportage of white southern Africa. The quirky title and jacket will propel curious shoppers to pick it up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I was so impressed by the quality of Fuller's writing, as I'm always looking for well-written fiction (and no, this isn't fiction, but it reads like an absorbing novel). There isn't a false note in this well-crafted debut--it's so crisply honed (not an extra word anywhere!, and she knows just when to end an episode), with wonderful dialogue and vignettes, and an equally wonderful, fresh use of the English language; Fuller often uses her own original compound words, for example, to narrate her story of growing up in three African countries, with a chaotic and ever-interesting family, with Africa itself always there, always one of the characters, too.
I thought the story succeeded so well because Fuller doesn't 'whitewash' her parents or family at all. Nor does she judge them. While I winced at yet another drink in her mother's hand sometimes, or the fact that no one ever processed anything with young Alexandra (Bobo) after her baby sister's death, it's obvious that this is a family that has a great affection for each other, though Fuller keeps this tightly understated. I was caught up in the relationships between family members, their use of nicknames (used affectionately), the complexity of Fuller's mother--what an incredible character!--and the way Bobo seemed, to me, to be the son her father never had.Read more ›
I recently returned to North America after living in rural East Africa for six months and a friend gave me Scott's novel as a gift. Scott's stories actually had me laughing out loud multiple times. Given my experiences, I could relate to finding humour in simple cultural differences and mannerisms - yet still accepting people for who they are. Scott's off the cuff, but incredibly endearing family also made it that much more enjoyable. Her book does have it serious moments, as it touches on the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
While Fuller's book was comedic at times (her family is very atypical), the tone throughout was relatively melancholic given her family's many hardships. The views portrayed throughout likely reflected that of many expats living there at the time, but I was disappointed to find it rather discriminatory. I had really hoped that there would be some sort of catharsis, showing a step towards acceptance and equality (not necessarily some grandiose gesture, but at least in the mind of the reader) as the novel progressed and was disappointed when this did not happen. It is not a feel good read (nor was it supposed to be, but hopefully you understand what I mean in stating this).
Overall, Fuller's book is well written and I can see why many readers might have enjoyed it. On a personal note, though, I could not get over the bigoted views presented without some form of resolve. If you are considering purchasing this book, I would suggest you try Scott's "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood" instead.
Fuller's writing style is rich, lyrical and many times, funny. I could picture the land, feel the heat and smell the smoking fish that embodies the Africa she describes. I found myself laughing even as I was shaking my head in disbelief at some of the choices her parents made. Bobo's mother, Nicola Fuller, is racist, resilient, strong and mad as a hatter. In other words, she's the most memorable character in the book.
Of course, to Fuller all of this stress and strife was, while not exactly normal, expected. She was a child, after all, and it's all she'd ever known. As I was reading, I couldn't help but think that American kids really have no idea how hard their life could be.
Overall a captivating read. It left me reminiscing about my childhood and reflecting on how simple and uncomplicated (read boring) it was.
Most recent customer reviews
I really enjoyed the content coming from a small girls perspective in a very dysfunctional family but the end left me hanging.Published on Sept. 9 2013 by Donna
I liked learning about Africa but the story really didn't seem to go anywhere. Perhaps the next book will complete things.Published on June 10 2013 by Hiliary Clarke
Fuller manages to capture the essence of Africa very well as a Msungu. She has a superb way with words and gets across the climate and people so that you can easily relate. Read morePublished on April 30 2013 by Richard A
Alexandra Fuller is a survivor of a very dysfunctional family. This poignant, heart wrenching, yet at times laugh out loud funny memoir is rich in the African landscape that she... Read morePublished on March 27 2007 by Teddy
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is a brutal portrayal of war-time Zimbabwe. It certainly hides a lot about the wonderful side of Africa and gives a false image of what is good... Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2005 by Edwin
A wonderful insight into the mind of a child and a precise memoir of life itself. Life isn't straightforward and simple, yet we survive, thrive and love, even in the most difficult... Read morePublished on July 13 2004 by CJF
I read this book for my book club. It just seemed to meander through her childhood, no real plot or climax. Read morePublished on July 7 2004