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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  6,131 ratings  ·  1,028 reviews
In this tour-de-force sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa with the story of her unforgettable family.

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multi-layered narrative around the Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civi...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Random House Canada (first published January 1st 2011)
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To read Fuller's books is to immerse yourself in the history of Africa, and most of it is pretty tragic and tough to fathom. It's hard to be at peace with colonialism. Fuller seems to struggle with this herself. While her mother reminisces about her Scottish ancestors, Fuller is haunted by the Tasmanian natives forced into slavery on the family's ancient estate. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to reconcile one's need to see all people as equal with an entire family history predicated on the...more
Several years ago, I read Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, a memoir of her young life as a white girl in Southern (NOT South) Africa, and although I don't remember the specifics, I do remember that I closed the book with a sense of history and humor, so I was pleased to see that she'd published a new book. This one, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, does not disappoint. This time around, the author sets her sights on the experiences of her parents, especially her mother,...more
Years ago I read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I loved it. I have been very foolish in not picking up this book sooner. You do not need to read both, but I would highly recommend it. This is “awful book number two”, as the author’s Mom would call it. The two books are about the author’s family, their time in “Central Africa”, that is to say Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The reason why I really love these books, and I love both of them, is that the writer talks abo...more
Alexandra Fuller wrote of her African childhood in Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight—known afterward to her family as the “Awful Book”—and her fey mother, Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, emerged as the most memorable character. In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Fuller returns to that harshest of continents to chart her mother’s life and memories as a one million percent Highland Scottish woman who grew up in the perfect equatorial light of colonial Kenya, who led a hardscrabble...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I love the title, but if I had a Tree of Forgetfulness, why then would I need a Cocktail Hour?
This book gives some insight into the wackiness of Bobo's parents, especially her mother, "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa," whom we first encountered in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight.

I think this passage from page 125 illustrates a bit of life for the often dissolute British colonials in Africa in the mid-20th century. A horse vet named Charlie organized hunts bringing together large groups of co...more
This book is a memoir of all the good and bad and how to survive in the African wilderness.

I find myself mesmerized, enchanted, sad, elated and pondering. Most of all, it was a great read. Sometimes I hollered with laughter.

I love these quotes from the book:

"No one starts a war warning that those involved will lose their innocence - that children will definitely die and be forever lost as a result of the conflict; that the war will not end for generations and generations, even after cease-fire
Deborah Gray
I normally don't read other people's reviews before I do my own, because I don't want to be influenced. I can see why I thought this was a good idea. There are too many wildly differing opinions on this book, which is about par for the number of different personalities reviewing them, but they did start to make me wonder if I was crazy to love it.

Because I did love this book. Alexandra Fuller writes beautifully with such wit and clarity that I was captivated. I didn't care that some of these st...more
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Alexandra Fuller’s latest book, The Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, continues to roam around in my imagination more than a month after I finished reading it. She is a memoirist who transports the reader to a time and place you could never otherwise know and experience it with compassion and good humor.

Even her title invites the reader to the place in the African village where people meet, talk, discuss, negotiate, laugh, drink, sing, forgi...more
Feb 22, 2013 Meg rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who aren't afraid of madness or falling in love with colonialists
I am giving this book four stars, even though it is very unfair. I adored Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat SO MUCH (with Colton H. Bryant somewhere in the 4.5 star range) that I am giving this book a four only in comparison. I do have to say that the whole idea of the Tree of Forgetfulness itself just floored me. I mean, the actual tree. I want one of my very own. Also, I still find it amazing how Alexandra Fuller does a better job than anyone I know of writing about rac...more
Marc Weitz
Ever sat down with a friend for cocktails only to have them retell their same old stories without showing the slightest bit of interest in you? That was this book. This is the fourth book I've read from this author, which means that I've read all her books. Obviously, I've enjoyed them, or I would not have bothered reading this one. But the author rehashes many stories from her first book "Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight," only this time from her parents' perspective and without the in-depth d...more
What happened to all of those whites who once lived good lives in Rhodesia and east central Africa? That is, before the civil wars of the 60's and early 70's turned the countries over to native Africans. Many left, of course, but some remained, and Fuller's book is an tribute to her parents who stayed on. It's an followup to her earlier book, DON'T LETS GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT about her childhood growing up in this volatile environment. She married and left Africa, and returns only to visit her a...more
Jan 24, 2013 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Around-the-worlders
Recommended to Judy by: Around-the-worlders
What's to say? Another winner by Alexandra Fuller. This memoir focuses on her Mum's life from her birthplace in Scotland to her residences in Zambia, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi. Mum is never boring and I am convinced that Fuller could just transcribe her conversation and it would be a bestseller. Cheers! to Nicola Fuller of Central Africa.
This is the follow up to "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," 2001, and like it, is about Ms. Fuller's family, primarily her mother. "Cocktail Hour..," 2011, is a perfect example of a mother and adult daughter trying to come to terms with one another. No surprise, Ms. Fuller's mother was not entirely happy with the way she was portrayed in "the awful [first] book." Who could blame her? It wasn't exactly a rousing endorsement of her mothering. She was often so wrapped up in her own mental illnes...more
This is the story of Nicola Fuller the author's mother and her life in Africa. The author was enamored with her mother's life and thought it would make a good story. My problem is that I can't tell if the author is a bad writer or if her mother's life wasn't worth writing about.

At the outset the story seems worthwhile: a white woman in Africa raising children, trying to make a home in a land full of war and beauty.

Unfortunately, the author never quite gives the reader a reason to fall in love wi...more
I loved this but then I loved Alexandra's previous memoir of life growing up in Africa with her parents " Don't let's go to the dogs tonight ".
This a more a tribute to her mother Nicola Fuller of Central Africa . I suspect that the first book led to a rift between mother and daughter particularly as it unflinchingly reveals her excessive drinking and depressions and Nicola constantly refers to it as " That Awful Book " but this a more rounded portrait and a love letter to her parents and to Afri...more
Brian Sweany
In 2001 Alexandra "Bo" Fuller's DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS took the publishing world by storm. It was named the Booksense Non-Fiction Book of the Year and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, hitting the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe. “A classic is born,” hailed Publishers Weekly in a starred review. “This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over,” added Newsweek. The book has since gone on to se...more
C.G. Worrell
While perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, I came across this book. The title and cover photo immediately hooked me. This memoir largely centers around the life of "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa", the eccentric mother of the author. For fifty years, we follow this pukka-pukka-sahib (most excellent mistress) and her family as political conditions and war force the Fuller's from Kenya to Rhodesia to Malawi, and finally, Zambia where they run a banana and fish farm. Nicola is clearly a hyp...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I'm having such a difficult time writing this review even though I loved this book (or maybe as a result of loving it!). As a memoir/biography, it had my favorite elements: compelling individuals, a wry writing style, and a tumultuous setting in a location and era I enjoy.

I found myself describing this to friends as a kind of apology to Fuller's mother, Nicola, for Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller's memoir of growing up in Rhodesia during the violent conflicts there. What I've read so...more
Sharon Huether
Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness.. By Alexandra Fuller.. Nicole's family came to Africa from Scotland. She met her husband in Central Africa, They lived in Kenya, Rhodesia, Zambia and England. Nicole was a free spirit and a complex person because of a chemical imbalance. A mother to five children, loseing 3 of her children under the age of three years. With all the grief she suffered, she always had courage to go on. Her husband managed farms. She was always helping him. They faced...more
Melissa Acuna
I would mortgage my soul to be able to write like Alexandra Fuller. In this beautifully written book, part memoir, part biograohy Fuller revisits the Rhodesia, Zambia of her own youth and the Africa of her mother's youth. She takes us to colonial Kenya and her mother's youth in Eldorat and seamlessly weaves her mother's memories into mini-history lessons. She moves to the gray industrial England of her Father's childhood and throws in assorted ancestral characters and eccentric living relatives....more
May 17, 2013 Jan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Meredith Franzel
Recommended to Jan by: NPR
I absolutely loved the story, Alexandra Fuller's mother was a truly a strong, courageous and hilariously funny woman. This book is a love story of her parents and her love and pride in them. It is also a very honest memoir just like Don't Let's Us go to the Dogs Tonight. I always have loved books about Africa and this one is one of the best.
This book, a prequel/sequel, continues, and in some ways completes, the first book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. I fully expect and hope we have another. This book is much more reflective and reveals the author's evolving and maturing understanding of her mother. The language is beautiful and evocative, rich in imagery. Several passages are worthy of quoting.

"Whether out of desperation, ignorance, or hostility, humans have an unerring capacity to ignore one another's sacred traditions and...more
Paul Pessolano
“Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness” by Alexandra Fuller.

Category – Biography

Alexandra Fuller led a very extraordinary life growing up in Africa with her parents and siblings. Nicola, Alexandra’s mother, who liked to be known as Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, was a unique woman. She was a courageous individual who stood by her husband and family in some very dire circumstances.

Nicola was born in Kenya and married Tim Fuller. They both were enchanted and fell deeply in love with Afri...more
Ten years ago Alexandra Fuller published her first book, a piece of non-fiction about her childhood in Rhodesia as it transitioned, with lots of chaos and bloodshed, into today’s Zimbabwe. If you haven’t read that book, "Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight", by all means, put everything down right now and grab a copy. Ms. Fuller’s mother refers to her daughter’s earlier publishing success as “that Awful Book”. We find, in this current offering, the ways in which her mother nourished and encourage...more
Absolutely wonderful! The writing style is that of a conversation over a glass of wine with an eccentric old friend. It is such a personal tale (complimented so nicely by the inclusion of old family photos).

Alexandra writes of an African life. She so vividly describes the people, places and happenings that it feels so close to home. I commend her for giving a true unbiased description of the Afrikaners in her life. I am an Afrikaner and can honestly say that she captures the gist of a very stran...more
In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multi-layered narrative around the Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war-torn Africa of her own childhood. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola Fuller 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 a...more
if you only read one memoir by alexandra fuller this year...make it her other one. because this one is basically a pale imitation of her other one. & her other one wasn't even that great. i can't even remember what it was called. don't let's go to the dogs tonight, i think.

basically, this is a book for anyone who read don't let's go to the dogs tonight & wondered to themselves, "wow, alexandra fuller just wrote a memoir about how her mom is basically a demented alcoholic. i wonder how th...more
Elisha Condie
I so looked forward to this book. But it honestly felt like reading "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" again - seriously, at least half the stuff is in the other book. And yes, it gave us Nicola's point of view on events, but she doesn't add enough to make it any more interesting. It was rather tedious reading a bunch of things I had read not a month ago.

The Fuller family are nuts. They are fiercely British, but wholly African. Nicola Fuller in particular is determined to be truly Scottish...more
Charmed by the title, I found I had to push myself a little to read all the way through this book. Presenting British colonials desperate to farm in Northern Rhodesia under Ian Smith, the author (their child) manages to maintain a nice balance between understanding her parents' desires and quirks, madness and grief, while also fully comprehending what the consequences of their actions (and others') were to African natives. Reading it is an easy way to learn a little about the history of southern...more
I read this in less than a day, while home with a cold. It made me cry four times, I think. Like Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight, it's beautifully written, rich and funny and tragic. This book focuses primarily on Fuller's larger-than-life mother, Nicola, and her father Tim. They're both characters from another era, who have started their lives over too many times to count as they've been displaced by war, poverty, death, and other disasters and losses.

Scotish-born Nicola, who could never le...more
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Alexandra Fuller has written four books of non-fiction.

Her debut book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (Random House, 2001), was a New York Times Notable Book for 2002, the 2002 Booksense best non-fiction book, a finalist for the Guardian’s First Book Award and the winner of the 2002 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize.

Her 2004 Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldie...more
More about Alexandra Fuller...
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight Scribbling the Cat The Legend of Colton H. Bryant Falling: The Story of a Marriage Leaving Before the Rains Come

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“You learn not to mourn every little thing out here, or you’d never, ever stop grieving.” 19 likes
“Surely until all of us own and honor one another's dead, until we have admitted to our murders and forgiven one another and ourselves for what we have done, there can be no truce, no dignity and no peace.” 6 likes
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