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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Jun 14, 2018 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Start discussion for Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness here.

About the Book (from the publisher)

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller's mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola 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 all animals. Fuller interviewed her mother at length and has captured her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.

We see Nicola and Tim Fuller in their lavender-colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid equatorial light, even as the British empire in which they both believe wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the couple finds themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow the Fullers as they hopscotch the continent, running from war and unspeakable heartbreak, from Kenya to Rhodesia to Zambia, even returning to England briefly. But just when it seems that Nicola has been broken entirely by Africa, it is the African earth itself that revives her.

A story of survival and madness, love and war, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author's family. In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a coffee table under their Tree of Forgetfulness on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days. In local custom, the Tree of Forgetfulness is where villagers meet to resolve disputes and it is here that the Fullers at last find an African kind of peace. Following the ghosts and dreams of memory, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is Alexandra Fuller at her very best.


About the Author

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972 she moved with her family to a farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). After that country’s civil war in 1981, the Fullers moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. Fuller received a B.A. from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1994, she moved to Wyoming, where she still lives. She has two children.


Discussion Questions (from LitLover)

1. How would you describe Alexandra Fuller's parents, especially, her mother Nicole? Is her mother mad, courageous, stubborn, foolish? Why does she stay on in Africa after having lost so much?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: What is the author's attitude toward her mother? At one point she ascribes wisdom to her mother: few "have the wisdom to look forward with unclouded hindsight." What does she mean...and do you consider such a trait wisdom or something else?

3. Nicole and Tim Fuller have such divergent personalities: how would you describe their marriage? What enables their marriage to survive the many tragedies and calamities over the years?

4. Who are some of the other colorful, eccentric characters in Fuller's memoir you particularly enjoyed reading about?

5. Although the author moves to America in 1994, her love for Africa remains, shining through her prose. Point to some examples of both the beauty and dangers Fuller describes. Would you wish to have had such a childhood in Africa?

6. Nicole Fuller hoped her life was dramatic or romantic enough to inspire a biography "along the lines of West With the Night, The Flame Trees of Thika or Out of Africa," says her daughter. Have you read or seen any film adaptations of those other works? If so, how does Cocktail Hour compare?

7. Have you read Fuller's previous memoir, "The Awful Book," as her mother refers to it? If so, how do the two works compare with one another?

8. What were Alexandra's parents' attitudes toward colonialism? Were they unabashed supporters or what the author refers to as "White liberals who survived postindependence...by declairing with suddenly acquired backbone and conviction that they'd always abeen on the side of 'the people'"? How does Alexandra portray Rhodesian colonialism? What were its human costs?

9. Is it a fair comparison to see Nicole Fuller, from childhood on, as the white African version of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind?

10. In her New York Times review, Dominique Browining writes that authors write memoirs to "revisit an episode that shattered a life...perhaps hoping, subconsciously, that things will turn out differently—or more realistically, that we will discover a key that unlocks a memory's mysterious urgency." Taking this observation, how can you apply it to what may have been Fuller's motivation for writing Cocktail Hour?


message 2: by Coqueline (last edited Mar 02, 2012 01:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Coqueline | 13 comments I started this. I love Don't Let's Go to The Dogs Tonight, so I was pretty excited to know that she wrote another book.


message 3: by Missy J (last edited Mar 04, 2012 05:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Missy J (missyj333) | 222 comments Already done with the first part of the book.
Am so happy that now I'm reading at least a book at the same time like you guys (I'm still reading Moloka'i and lovin' it :)
I haven't read "Don't Let's Go The Dogs Tonight", nor any other book by Alexandra Fuller. My first impression was, "Wow she must really love her mum a lot to write a book about her!"

I've read other books set in Africa (Disgrace by Coetzee, A Long Way Gone (Sierra Leone boy soldier memoir), Tahar Ben Jelloun's short stories,...), though good, most of these books mentioned were dramatic, very sad, often violence was depicted in harsh ways. So I find this book set in Africa so refreshing for being humorous and joyful.

That's it for now.
Happy reading!

2 days later: Okay I finished the book and it did get quite heartbreaking towards the end. Nevertheless a good book, offering a different side of Africa to the world!


Connie G (connie_g) | 862 comments This book is the story of Nicola Fuller, the author's mother, and it gives us a look at Africa during the transition from colonial times to the present. The author writes with humor and honesty about her family. I felt myself comparing this book to her previous book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, which covered a lot of the same territory (but concentrates on the author's childhood) which I felt was the better book.


message 5: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments I really enjoyed reading more about the Fuller family. It took place in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and very briefly in Malawi and Scotland. It was mostly light and humorous reading, with a few sad parts, especially toward the end. It was defintely a different view of Africa from most of the books I have read about the continent. The author's mother certainly has gone through a lot during her lifetime and I wonder how it would have been different if they had stayed in Europe. The author's parents are very connected to Africa and consider it to be their true home, despite much adversity.


Coqueline | 13 comments I just finished the book last night. It was certainly sad in parts, but you can just feel the author's and her mum's love for the land it's infectious. It makes me want to go to Africa and build a farm myself (and I hate gardening, let alone farming).

What a wonderful family who stays strong together through thick and thin.


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