Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller (GUEST REVIEW) BLOG TOUR

Title: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Review copy for TLC Book Tours

I don't think there is a bookseller from the past decade that hasn't heard of Alexandra Fuller's first memoir, Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight. It was one of those sleeper hit sellers that catches us bookselling folks by surprise. No one ever knew what the correct title was and continued to screw it up for years to come. But it sold like hotcakes, to lovers of memoirs, literary fiction and to a whole host of book clubs. Her newest memoir has another uniquely fumbled upon title which, if backed by another well told story, should cement it in readers minds again.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

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.

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.

So, I don't plan on having Guest Reviewers be too frequent on my blog but with my reading being a bit behind and having an interested party, I let my husband have a go at this one first. He was looking for something new and had some down time to fill during his lunch breaks. He is such an insightful reader, I thought this would be a good pick for him.

Here are his thoughts:

Having never read anything about colonial Africa, this book was eye-opening in that it tells the story of day to day life as colored by the recollections of the author's mother "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa"; meaning that the facts are often overshadowed by the stories accompanying. A recurring theme is the mother's near constant reference to "that awful book"(Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight) as a travesty for lacking the glorification she had always assumed book writing entailed. This bittersweet yet humorous tale of family in the face of adversity is refreshing; as many books have been written on the subject, few happen in Kenya, South Africa, Zambia or Zimbabwe. I enjoyed the narrative as being genuine, and representative of an honest memoir. I thought this book was a fun read, despite some of the harsh realities present. A great study of British occupied Africa before Zimbabwean independence, through the eyes of a daughter of one such settler. I would recommend this for any student of African History, or any reader interested in this era of History.

Once again, thank you Sean for your thoughtful review. When the copy of this book finally falls in my lap, I look forward to discussing it further with him.

Here are the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, August 16th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Wednesday, August 17th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, August 18th: StephTheBookworm

Monday, August 22nd: Rundpinne

Tuesday, August 23rd: Lit and Life

Wednesday, August 24th: Jenny Loves to Read

Thursday, August 25th: Silver’s Reviews

Friday, August 26th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Monday, August 29th: An English Major’s Junk Food

Tuesday, August 30th: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, August 31st: BookNAround

Author Website:

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.

Visit Alexandra at her website.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Tales of Whimsy said...

Bittersweet. I love that word. Great review.

Audra said...

Loved the guest review -- I so enjoyed this book -- so much so that I grabbed Fuller's first book. Bittersweet is the perfect way to describe this bio/memoir -- it really is sad and humorous in equal part.

Anonymous said...

I love that you got your husband to read and review for you! I was a huge fan of Fuller's other two memoirs and I'm hugely excited to read this one.

Thanks for (your husband) being on the tour!