Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” as Want to Read:
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  52,804 ratings  ·  3,417 reviews
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and ...more
Paperback, 315 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published December 1st 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Here's a new idea: read it yourself and formulate your own.…moreHere's a new idea: read it yourself and formulate your own.(less)
Katie Leonetti Found this was from a poem as copied below by A.P. Herbert.
Not sure that answers the question as to the full meaning behind it.
Maybe that the adults …more
Found this was from a poem as copied below by A.P. Herbert.
Not sure that answers the question as to the full meaning behind it.
Maybe that the adults in the books are hard drinkers and like to have a party.

by A.P.Herbert

"Come," said he--"a night for dancing,
Lips alight and bright eyes glancing.
Come!" the young man cried;
"Youth should never pause from pleasure,
Fill the cup and trip the measure!"
But the girl replied--

Don't let's go to the dogs to-night,
For mother will be there.
Auntie chooses all the tunes,
Uncle bags the best balloons,
And all the roundest men in town
Are dancing mother's figure down;
Puffing, panting,
Barging, banting,
Bless their snowy hair!
Night-clubs now are simply spas
For our young Methuselahs,
So don't let's go to the dogs to-night
In case my granny's there.

"When I see my oldest aunties
Kicking heels and singing chanties
Then I have to stop;
All the uncles dance like ladders,
All the aunts are built like bladders
Just about to pop.

"Don't let's go to the dogs to-night,
For mother will be there.
When I see the ball-room bulging
With my ancestors indulging
Then I've done with Mirth and Mammon.
Let's go home and play backgammon.
Pushing, shoving,
Lurching, loving,
Bless their silvery hair!
Let the old ones have their fun;
Some day we'll be sixty-one.
But don't let's go to the dogs to-night,
In case my granny's there."(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  52,804 ratings  ·  3,417 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is one of my top-ten favorite books of all time. An extremely compelling memoir, well-written, poignant but not maudlin or precious. I've read it twice and feel another reread coming on.

The brutal honesty in this story is startling, and Fuller does not set out to insert political or social critique into her story. This is probably unsettling for readers who come face-to-face with her family's colonialist attitudes and expect to hear her criticize and critique them. However, I prefer that Fu
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Childhood memoir fans
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
The memoirs of the childhood of a white girl (Alexandra, known as Bobo), raised on African farms in the 1970s and 1980s, along with her sister, Van(essa). But it's not a gilded, ex-pat life: her parents lose their farm in forced land distribution, after which they are itinerant farm managers, who move where the work is, often to disease-ridden and war-torn areas. They also have their own problems with bereavement and alcohol. It is perhaps closer to misery lit, although the tone is mostly light, ...more
J.L.   Sutton
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deciding to read more memoirs again, I picked up Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (first read about 6 or 7 years ago). I enjoyed this book. Fuller’s memoir quickly draws the reader into her girlhood growing up in Africa with candor and humor. Fuller weaves her story back and forth between an intimate portrait of her family and the violence surrounding them. Violence is not just a backdrop; this violence, and the lack of political stability in the countries she grows up in, s ...more
I totally, TOTALLY loved this book!!!!! I know I tshould think a bit before I write something, but I am carried away by my emotions. I love the family, all of them. How can I love them, they are so very far from any way I could live my own life, but nevertheless I love them to pieces. Their lives are hard, but they get through, one step at a time. They know what is important. They don't demand too much. Oh the mother, my heart bled for her. I know she is manic, but who wouldn't be - living throu ...more
Debbie "DJ"
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, own
What a fantastic read! Alexandra Fuller took me on an amazing journey through her younger years growing up in Africa as a poor white girl. Her parents are expats from Britain who moved in the late 60's to work as farm managers. This memoir details her life from that time right up to the late 90's, a time period when Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was at war fighting for independence from Britain. I found it fascinating to not only read of the hellish conditions, but also how this young girl named Bobo, ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
***Review written in 2015, all time favorite***

This is by far the most remarkable memoir I've read in years. The author has that rare gift, being able to speak to us through the eyes and mind of the child that she was. She was nicknamed "bobo", growing up in African during the years from 1972 through 1990.

This British family was always in hostile, desolate environments, moving from Rhodesia to Zambia and Malawi. With the author's wry and sometimes hilarious prose, we feel her encounters with mos
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Sep 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanette (Ms. Feisty) by: Elisabeth
Whenever I read an autobiography, I compare my childhood experiences with those of the author. What was happening in my life at that age? How would I have behaved under those circumstances?

With this book, the comparisons were difficult to make. I can't imagine growing up amid so much tumult and violence and uncertainty. Not to mention numerous inconveniences and an abundance of creepy and dangerous vermin.

I'm glad I didn't grow up in a place where terrorists were so common that they were refer
Diane in Australia
The author writes of growing up in the African countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia. I love those books that make you want to see/smell/hear/feel the countries they are describing, and this is one of those. "I appreciated that we, as whites, could not own a piece of Africa, but I knew, with startling clarity, that Africa owned me."

They were poor. They struggled. Life wasn't easy. Her mum is a manic-depressive ... unfortunately, enduring the death of some of her children didn't help. "Mum ha
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

The only reason I read this is because Alexandra Fuller provided the cover blurb for Where the Crawdads Sing . . . .

I’m not even sorry either because I probably would never have heard of this memoir otherwise.

Alexandra Fuller’s family arrived in Rhodesia via way of Darby, England in 1966 when she was only a toddler. This is the story of her childhood as a farming family in what originally was a country ran by whites under British
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
The first few lines are gripping, to say the least.
Mom says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs.
She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping."
"Why not?"
"We might shoot you."

Just a taste of what life was like for young Alexandra "Bobo" Fuller.

Living in a house with no electricity, Fuller recounted how she and her sister employed the "buddy system" to use the bathroom at night. One girl used the toilet while the other he
I read "Cocktail hour under the tree of Forgetfulness" first, and found this book too repetitive - although it was written first. I loved Cocktail hour more.

However, I enjoyed Alexandra Fuller's candor, honesty, wit and great writing style as usual.

I somehow had enough now for a while of all the hardship, tragedy, hurt, and everything else related to the wars in Africa and everywhere else. I have experienced much the same as Alexandra Fuller, being part of the revolutionary times, the same
Sara Diane
Oct 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I read this book (well, most of it, I admit, I didn't finish and didn't want to) while in training as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, Africa. I found the writing to be disjointed and the colonial attitudes to be far too accurate. I might have liked it better before going to Africa, before seeing first-hand what various colonizing governments did to people, but maybe not. I might have liked it better if she told her memories in order, rather than jumping around so I had some clue as to where ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A well-written memoir that was fascinating if only because the author is exactly my age, born the year I was born, and lived a life so very different from my own. As she described each stage of her upbringing, I found myself thinking about what I had been doing at that same age and marveling that the two of us could possibly have occupied the same world at the same time. I envy her when I should probably not -- her life has clearly not been easy, but it has been rich with experiences. The other ...more
Badly Drawn Girl
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing

As an avid reader, it often surprises people when they learn that I rarely re-read books. I know that a lot of people find great enjoyment from repeat readings, discovering new layers to the story and gaining a better understanding of the book. I look at it a bit differently. There are so many wonderful books out there and I'll never be able to read them all. Usually when I choose to re-read a book I feel like I'm wasting time that could be devoted to reading a new book.

My reason for sharing th
Judith E
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
Alexandra (Bobo) and her sister, Vanessa, are some kick ass tough kids. Raised by their parents on farms in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi during the 1970’s, they are white Africans, exposed to deeply ingrained racism from birth. They have free reign among scorpions, snakes, leopards, and baboons and they live in the middle of the Rhodesian war. The girls learn to load and shoot guns to protect themselves from terrorists in this long civil war. Mixed in with these geographical hardships i ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I genuinely hated this book and that's rare. The characters made me angry. Not in a "good, I get to see them grow" way, more in an "I hope they get shot and go away" way. ...more
Feb 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Why did I let this wonderful memoir sit on my TBR list for so long? Alexandra’s parents moved to Rhodesia to become colonial farmers when she was two years old. Very soon after, a gorilla war of independence broke out. Threatened by landmines and soldiers on the outside and from the weight of grief and alcoholism on the inside, her family found a way to navigate forces that destroyed many others. At times funny, at times tragic, at times eccentric, at times heroic, Fuller gives us a wonderful st ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am African by accident, not by birth. So while soul, heart, and the bent of my mind are African, my skin blaringly begs to differ and is resolutely white. And while I insist on my Africanness (if such a singular thing can exist on such a vast and varied continent), I am forced to acknowledge that almost half my life in Africa was realized in a bubble of Anglocentricity, as if black Africans had not culture worth noticing and as if they did not exist except as servants and (more dangerously) a ...more
Brendan Detzner
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I read an article by a book reviewer a little while ago in which they talked about how sick they were of "growing up in fill-in-the-blank" books and wished people would be more original. I think that's incredibly misguided. Growing up isn't a cliche, it's just something that happens a lot that's important. So people are going to write about it, and good for them.

They don't usually write about it this well though. This is one of those books that tops out on many different levels at the same time-
lucky little cat
Just an astonishing memoir, beautifully written, packed with wry humor. Read it, enjoy it, marvel at the tightrope

No cheetahs are harmed, but the impalas typically arrive as steaks.

Fuller walks as she describes the fall of apartheid from the minority white perspective (without nearly enough contrition, but that's apparently a matter for a different book).

Alexandra Fuller was a handful as a kid, and she wrote it all down while she still remembered it.

Born in 1969, she's technically a gen-xer bu
A classic memoir that conjures up all the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of an Africa on the cusp of a colonial to postcolonial transition. Fuller’s family were struggling tobacco and cattle farmers in Rhodesia (what later became Zimbabwe), Malawi and Zambia. She had absorbed the notion that white people were there to benevolently shepherd the natives, but came to question it when she met Africans for herself. While giving a sense of the continent’s political shifts, she mostly focuses on h ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it liked it
I am a white South African so in a way I could relate to Fuller. I am currently living in the Netherlands, so reading about the beauty of Africa truly made me feel homesick. I thought this book was going to be about Africa and how she came to see that the White people in Zimbabwe were in fact the 'bad guys' in the war but instead it was really about her family surviving in Africa. I DID enjoy some parts of the story, I thought her family were colourful and although it was a bit dark at times, hu ...more
Leah Polcar

What makes Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight an outstanding memoir was Fuller's interesting choice to tell the story of growing up as an "expat-like-us" in Africa from a child's POV and the fact she did not tie herself to recounting her childhood in a linear manner. The latter was effective since Fuller doesn't get bogged down in the day-to-day mendacity that is life and she can focus on events and stories that give a full picture to growing up (white) in Africa. Her choice to use a child
Jun 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
An unconventional memoir, and I think Fuller's commitment to write about her life in Sub-Saharan Africa through her own perspective as a child is an interesting stylistic choice, but for some reason, I dreaded this book as I was reading it, and I couldn't wait for it to be done. I think I struggled with so many short chapters skipping around in time without a reason or frame, and as a result, I felt anchor-less. I think her voice may speak to others more than me, but I simply did not enjoy readi ...more
Her writing is beautiful, descriptive. You can smell and taste Africa; sometimes you can even smell and taste blood and liquor.

I would have never have dreamed of reading a book about Africa; the country just never appealed to me. But my friend, who is a teacher, and who lives part time in Africa teaching English at a school she had started, recommended it. It is a true story of a white girl growing up in Africa during the civil war, and it smacks of colonialism and racism, both of which I disli
Anne ✨
I was completely mesmerized reading this highly compelling memoir of Alexandra Fuller's childhood experiences as a British expat family living in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), during the time of ending colonialism in the 70s-90s.

This book captivated me on so many different levels:

I was captivated by the writing: the author writes with candor and wit about her chaotic, often tragic childhood. The writing is poetic, yet understated, letting the beauty and harshness of the landscape and her experiences
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all interested in childhood recounts and recent history
An autobiography about growing up in colonial Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Two things made me curious about this book: it's from the perspective of the child of colonialists, and the events are fairly recent as it takes place in the 1970's-1990's.
The voice is that of a relatively innocent young girl (as innocent as you can be in midst of war and dire economic circumstances) and she's allowed to tell her childhood as she saw it, good and bad.

I've had fairly mixed feelings about this book: I w
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads
This is the second book I've read by fuller and I just love her writing style and the story she has to tell. Growing up in the 70's as ex-pats in a country still fighting for it's own independence. Where it's normal to live carrying guns and needing escorts just to go to the local village, in case you drive over landmines or get assaulted. And then to have to grow up in a family as unusual as alexandra's is just such a fascinating story. A mother who is heartbroken from a loss of a child, who dr ...more
Laurie Notaro
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An insanely good read that I had on my bookshelf since I bought it 14 years ago. A memoir about an African childhood--a white girl of low-income farmers that are determined to eek out a living because they love Africa. In the late seventies, early eighties, through much upheaval in several countries. Enjoyed it so much I bought another copy for my niece, who will be traveling to Africa next summer on a fellowship to treat diseases. Really loved it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa
  • The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe
  • Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa
  • Let's Not go to the dogs tonight
  • The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood
  • Out of Africa / Shadows on the Grass
  • A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda
  • Ain't No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Brother Claude Ely
  • The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
  • Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller: Summary & Study Guide
  • Steve Jobs: The Unauthorized Autobiography
  • Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica
  • Easter Rising: An Irish American Coming Up from Under
  • 2003 - Thanks for the Vodka
  • America's Daughter (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #2)
  • The House at Sugar Beach
  • I Dreamed of Africa
  • Choosing Light: When an Earthquake Buried Me and My Family for 5 Days, I Learned to Fully Live
See similar books…
Alexandra Fuller has written five 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 Sold

Related Articles

Here’s some trivia for your next vacation get-together: The concept of the summer “beach read” book goes all the way back to the Victorian...
11 likes · 8 comments
“How you see a country depends on whether you are driving through it, or live in it. How you see a country depends on whether or not you can leave it, if you have to.” 36 likes
“This is not a full circle. It's Life carrying on. It's the next breath we all take. It's the choice we all make to get on with it.” 13 likes
More quotes…