Karen's Reviews > Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
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Jan 13, 12

bookshelves: 2012, ladywritten, bechdel_test_yes

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 learn to type and who treasured her winklepickers and high heels, somehow becomes an African farmer who carries an Uzi during revolutionary times, as a matter of course. Tim farms, soldiers, and works a hundred different jobs to feed the family. Neither of them is African by birth, but they both love African land with a deep, abiding passion that blinds them to the folly of latter-day colonialism and white rule.

If you've read Don't Let's, there are some new stories here but the main ground has already been covered. I didn't mind at all. After the first book, Fuller's mother took (real or exaggerated) umbrage at how much of her life was put on display, and this book reads like a love letter, an apology, and a deep character study.

Because this is a family memoir, there are no other voices here to pick up the untold stories of the black servants, soldiers, or revolutionaries. (Fuller points out many of her parents' blind spots, and doesn't shrink from calling out the racism of the period, or the barbarity of any other tribe, including her ancestral Scots.) But at the same time, these people are so vivid and funny and real, and so punished by loss and by the tragic consequences of their decisions, it's impossible not to love them.
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