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

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
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Jan 17, 13

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Read in October, 2011

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 aging parents.

They were originally Scottish highlanders who settled in Africa and made it their home. As she writes, "land is Mum's love affair and it is Dad's religion." They love the country, just as their ancestors loved the rugged west coast of Scotland, and both want to be buried in Africa." Her father fought in the African wars to retain British rights, but when those war were ultimately lost, he hung on, working as a manager on various farms. He says, "You put your blood and sweat into a place and then . . . there's a coup, squatters show up, the wind changes direction, and suddenly it's all gone. No, there's no point, but you can still work in Africa without trying to own any of it." It was a tough life, Fuller's mother losing three of her five children, two to disease, one to a tragic accident, and most of all the youthful innocence she had when she first came to Africa. She suffered from serious bouts of depression and alcoholism.

Fuller gets much of the fascinating story from her parents while they sit having cocktails under a tree actually called the "tree of forgetfulness. A native explains that "if there is a sickness or you are troubled by spirits, then you sit under the tree of forgetfulness and your ancestors will assist you. It is true, all of your troubles and arguments will be resolved." Whether they are or not is an open question, but Mum believes it "two million percent". To live in this part of Africa you have to have faith in a better future or else you'll succumb to despair.

Africa is full of life and incredible beauty, but it's also full of decay and death, and Fuller captures both in this very interesting book.
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