Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

Bobo has written another AWFUL BOOK. Huzzah! Huzzah! Now before you think I am condemning this long awaited follow-up prequel/sequel to her memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, you should know that this is in fact how her family refers to her fantastic first book. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a worthy successor to her first critically acclaimed memoir. Knowing I had this book coming up on my list for review, I hurried to read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight about Fuller's African childhood because I am completely and totally compulsive about reading things in order (and I had owned the first book, unread, for well over a decade). Less obsessed readers do not need to do so though as this tale, centered around Fuller's dramatic and entertaining mother Nicola Fuller, easily stands on its own.

Nicola Fuller grew up in Kenya while Britain was still ascendant on the African continent and her attitudes were shaped by life under a ruling minority. She is a fascinating, expansive, extravagant, over the top personality who shines as the emotional center of this book. With insight from her mother and extensive, casual interviews over cocktails under African sunsets, Fuller tells of her mother's childhood, young adulthood, charmed early life with Fuller's father, and the increasingly dangerous times and tragedies they survived. While this sequel does cover some of the same ground as her first memoir, it adds a whole new dimension to both Tim and Nicola Fuller, painting them more sympathetically than they were previously portrayed. And given the love that shines out from the pages of this book, this portrayal is probably the more accurate.

Woven throughout the tales of her mother's life, are events of great historical significance. These forays into modern African history never come off as dry but instead as shaping the everyday life and tragedies of everyone around them, not excluding the Fullers themselves. Fuller does not whitewash the colonial sympathizing sentiment with which she grew up. She details the atrocities of a war that touched many people she knew and that constrained her own childhood. The acknowledgement that the African continent and the countries on it are complicated is a constant subtext. Nicola Fuller is also complicated, full of contradictions, and enduring just like the land she so loves.

This memoir/biography is really a love story on many levels: the Fullers' love for Africa, Bobo's love for her mother, and Nicola's and Tim's steady love for each other. It is enchanting and funny, heartbreaking and nostalgic, a tale acknowledging and mourning the past but content to move into the future complete with cocktails served under the tree of forgetfulness (an actual tree on the banana and fish farm where Nicola and Tim live now). A lushly gorgeous rendering of a specific time and place, this was a charming, intimate, and delightful read.

For more information about Alexandra Fuller and the book visit her webpage.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. I loved "that AWFUL book" so I'm definitely planning on reading this one as well!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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