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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood [Paperback]

Alexandra Fuller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 11 2003
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it 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.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fuller’s 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 Fuller’s 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, Fuller’s "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 Fuller’s 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 author’s "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.

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Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great content Sept. 9 2013
By Donna
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the content coming from a small girls perspective in a very dysfunctional family but the end left me hanging.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story June 10 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I liked learning about Africa but the story really didn't seem to go anywhere. Perhaps the next book will complete things.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic reminder of living in Africa April 30 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. just hope it means as much to those that have never lived there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Survivor's Story March 27 2007
By Teddy
Format:Audio CD
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 grew up in. Ms. Fuller wrote this in beautiful, lyrical prose, which makes the reader feel like s/he is there, experiencing all the harsh yet beautiful reality first hand.

The narrator of this audio book, Lisette Lecat could not have done a better job.

I highly recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars --Candid and Unforgetable-- March 12 2003
Alexandra Fuller takes us back during the years 1972 to 1990 into the life that she led as a child in Southern and Central Africa. Her words are painful and hilarious, but always ring truthful. The story of her very determined parents and the struggle the entire family experienced is amazing. These parents are not the hand holding gentle souls who can´¿t bear to worry their children, they are blunt and strong and serve as examples of people who are surviving in a very difficult life and often-brutal country. The family lived on several farms trying to make a living on inhospitable land where guerrilla fighters were lurking in the bushes and camping on the farmland during the nights. The truth was they loved Africa, and were determined to stay there.
During all of the years of civil unrest, her father was often away serving as a soldier for the government. Her mother was a very emotional, but strong woman who tried her best to hold on even when she saw her children die and she had to continue to run the farm alone while her husband was out fighting. Everyone carried guns and the children were taught how to load a gun as soon as they were agile enough to do it.
Alexandra, called Bobo by her family gives us this remembrance that she had from the age of three. ´¿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.´¿ ´¿Oh.´¿ ´¿ By mistake.´¿ ´¿Okay, I won´¿t.´¿ replied Bobo.
I didn´¿t want this story to end and hope that the author writes another book and gives us an update on her remarkable family.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars couldn't put this book down Nov. 13 2004
I found that I couldn't put this book down. The author has fantastic insight into her own dysfunctional family. This is a touching survivor's story. A wonderful book, even more so because it's autobiographical. For anyone who loves reading about life in Africa and overcoming adversity in life, this is the book for you. Has a bit of "Nightmares Echo" and "Living Lolita in Tehran" in it. All excellent reads. Highly rated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I could give TEN stars! May 19 2004
God, I loved this book! Smart, funny, sad... I love her writing style. She makes you feel, smell, taste and touch Africa. I wish I could write like this. I'm recommending it to everyone I know, and hope that Fuller's latest, "Scribbling the Cat," is as good. Even if it's only half as good, it'll be worthwhile!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Written, Extraordinary Memoir April 25 2004
By A Customer
I've been fascinated by Africa, particularly since reading Kingsolver's 'The Poisonwood Bible' several years ago, so when I saw this book and its engaging cover, I grabbed it! I just LOVED Fuller's memoir and, like so many others, just hated to see it end (but unlike others, I read it slowly, with extra maps in hand, savoring every page). It's easy to pick up any part of it and get involved all over again...
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but had some issues with it...
Having just read "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood" by Robyn Scott and LOVING it, I thought that I would try this book. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2011 by just another reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
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 more
Published on Feb. 24 2005 by Edwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo
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 more
Published on July 13 2004 by CJF
1.0 out of 5 stars Just meanders . . .
I read this book for my book club. It just seemed to meander through her childhood, no real plot or climax. Read more
Published on July 7 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A very different childhood
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller is an extraordinary memoir of growing up white in war ravaged Africa. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Kristi Lewandowski
1.0 out of 5 stars White man point of view
This book is basically a white mans point of view of the great continent that they distroyed. The political system in Zimbabwe is not ment for African peoples benefit that is why... Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Golden Ballz
2.0 out of 5 stars Too internal for my tastes
Strange that a book centered around Africa, and so rich at times with descriptive passages, should leave me feeling so left out. Read more
Published on June 28 2004
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