Allie's Reviews > Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
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's review
Dec 18, 2007

liked it
Recommended for: Childhood memoir fans
Read in December, 2007

I almost gave this book four stars because it was very well-written and evocative. But I just never felt much of a connection to the book or to any of the characters. The author's writing skill made it a pleasant enough read - at least, pleasant enough to finish. But it definitely wasn't a can't-put-it-down kind of book.

If I had to give concrete criticisms of the book, the main one would be that she doesn't develop any characters outside of her immediately family (in fact, it seemed her family didn't have any substantial relationships with anyone, other than each other), and even those characters could use a bit more context. (Why were they in Africa? I mean, what really motivated them to keep slogging it out in Africa, really? Where did their racism come from? How did she feel about their racism? How did her parents meet and what ties did either of them have to Africa before deciding to raise their kids there? What motivated them to raise children in a country in which a civil war was raging?)

On the other hand, she writes terrific dialogue and her sensory descriptions of Africa made me feel like I was there.
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05/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Gina (new)

Gina I felt this way about it, too! I enjoyed reading it, and would gnaw off one of my own limbs to be as good a writer as Fuller is, she is that good! But you never really get close to these characters, you are just baffled and entertained and often frightened by them. Attending her reading when she was in town helped, I think, because she spoke about her parents very candidly, but still. I never would have put it this way, but YOU'RE TOTALLY RIGHT!

Allie Gina,
Thanks for the comment. It's funny that you had the same reaction to the book! I wish I had been able to go see her speak. I really would love to know more about her parents and her life. And I know what you mean about her writing - she really is amazing.

Claire Monahan I definitely agree with your review and felt the same way after I finished reading. Now that I'm thinking about it more, though, I think it was Fuller's intention to not draw readers into a close, intimate relationship. What I admired most about the story is how honest of a writer she seemed. Based upon what I understood, she and her family weren't huggy-feely-aww-don't-cry-baby-type of family - if that makes any sense at all. They were a wipe your tears, wash your face, and get on with your life group. I never felt that Fuller would draw me in on that level, so perhaps that's why I wasn't too disappointed when she never did.

Shannon I agree very much with your review and those who have responded. I too did not feel a connection to Fuller. The book was extremely well-written, but I think the lack of relatibility was it's major flaw.

Catherine I think to truly understand the book you have to have had an African childhood. Her family were originally from Africa (they moved to the UK for a while, where the author was born but they were homesick and moved back). With regards to the racist question, you will find that most white people who live in africa (less so today, thank god) have very prejudiced views because they were brought up that way, they were brought up to think that black people were inferior (like when the author doesn't want to drink from a cup that a black person used).
The war in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was such that it was relatively safe for white people to continue their normal lives, there were no real dangers. Especially in some areas of Zimbabwe where there was almost no fighting or war.
Most people from Africa will tell you that there is something about the continent that draws you in and you are never able to get away from the continent (even if only in your mind). Her parents loved Africa for the climate, the people, the lifestyle, the freedom and the beauty.

message 6: by Deb (new) - rated it 3 stars

Deb I just finished this book and perused the reviews--I am going to be discussing with my book group in a couple of nights and usually gain more insight after one of those discussions, but my first impression is exactly as yours was. I just couldn't connect with the author and also wondered why they endured Africa. That certainly didn't come through in the author's perspective, and I didn't feel we got to know her father well enough to see his motivation. Glad to find a kindred perspective.

Susan Zizza Maguire Great review-I had the same questions. I ended up immensely enjoying this book-though I did struggle with her inherited colonial racism... she was truthful-but it's tough to take.

Ronni Just quick note about why they chose to stay in Africa and several war-torn nations. Fuller was a 3rd generation African, meaning both her parents were "from" there. I think that's enough reason. And second quick note, her own comments on why she wrote the book she wrote (i.e., with a sort of "this is the way it is" child-like non-critique of her family) helped me appreciate the style she chose for this memoir. I too had trouble fully "connecting" with this book, even though the writing is top-shelf for sure!

David Nadas I'm down the middle with this one. My thoughts exactly as echoed by everyone here. I was surprised by Fuller to see the skimming of character depth, as beautifully descriptive and textural as this story was told.. it felt myoptic to me... I knew there were people around them, but they seemed out of focus... blurry, and I wanted to know more about their cultural interaction with Africa., but she seemed to keep it away. It was as if Fuller herself were watching someone else and taking notes. maybe it was difficult for herself to see her upbringing, as happy as she seemed about it and until she moved to N America and now had a binocular view of the past.

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