Title: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Publisher: Penguin Press HC
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Hardcover: 256 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
In this sequel to Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa and the story of her unforgettable family.
In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother’s childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father’s English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller’s mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola 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 interviewed her mother at length and has captured her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.
We see Nicola and Tim Fuller in their lavender-colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid equatorial light, even as the British empire in which they both believe wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the couple finds themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow the Fullers as they hopscotch the continent, running 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.
A story of survival and madness, love and war, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author’s family. 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 of Forgetfulness 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.
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller is a moving and descriptive story of the author’s family as it struggled through adversity. Fuller eloquently captures much of her mother’s (Nicola Fuller) thoughts through extensive interviews and in her expertly crafted writing, brings to life the challenges faced by her parents in eastern Africa. This is the second of her memoirs and considered a sequel of sorts to her first Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight, which I think explains why I had a difficult time completely following Fuller’s writing at times, yet there were so many poignant moments that left me awestruck to witness the incredible story of the Fuller’s. This is a true story about survival, war, commitment, heartbreak and redemption and is told through the eyes of one who witnessed and penned by her daughter in well-crafted prose. Like taking a personally-guided tour of Africa, Fuller brings to life her mother’s story and chronicles her life from the 1940’s through to the present day. For readers looking for a story of family strength and triumph amidst adversity, I recommend Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness but suggest readers consider first reading Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.
Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972, she moved with her family to a farm in southern Africa. She lived in Africa until her midtwenties. In 1994, she moved to Wyoming with her husband. They have three children.
To learn more about Alexandra Fuller, please visit her website: alexandrafuller.org
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I received a complimentary ARC of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.