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A compelling memoir that paints a picture of an unconventional yet thrilling childhood.

  • May 6, 2013
  • by
If anyone has ever read Isak Dinesen's famed memoir, Out of Africa and enjoyed it, they will surely like Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood. The story line of both memoirs have many parallel components, perhaps with the sole exception being the writing style. Alexandra Fuller's memoir is written in an almost rough, edgy and choppy manner with a halting abruptness to it. Even so, it does not diminish the quality of the work; rather, it enhances the depictions of the fiery orange and arid African landscapes that are filled to the brim with a sundry lot of wild and dangerous animals, never mind the people and the assorted tribal clans. The jagged writing is almost done deliberately in order for the words to coalesce with the stop-and-go and often turbulent yet loving upbringing that she and her elder sister Vanessa (Van in the book) experienced.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is not a memoir in the sense that it is peppered with memories of games of cricket, safaris and a life of African luxuriance. It is not. It is a memoir of perseverance and surviving while struggling first in a war torn country, then having siblings pass away, then coping with a mother's unstoppable grief compounded with temporary alcohol induced madness and lethargy to a whole gamut of happenings that plague the family from one dilapidated African farm to another, from one African country to another, all in the beleaguered search to find a place of stability whereby all of the Fullers could finally call one location home and thus have roots established. Her depictions of Rhodesia, the Rhodesia Bush War, Malawi, Zambia, the house staff, the beloved dogs are acute and transportive, a reader can almost smell and taste what she is recalling. Though there is a lot more in the book than what I have hinted at, the best element of the work is the family themselves. They are colorful characters who are earthy, hardworking and true. Despite all their hardships, the family unit always remained intact. They could all easily have split apart.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is laced with hilarious stories, beautiful animals, gracious Africans-and sometimes not-booze, poker, war, ethnicity, travels, heat, doubt, tenacity and childlike wonder and fear. It is a memoir that encapsulates so much. It has a punch to it. Upon finishing it, it made me kind of think to myself, I would like to go to Africa, too, one day. An exceptional memoir and highly recommended.
A compelling memoir that paints a picture of an unconventional yet thrilling childhood.

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review by . May 20, 2002
If there's one thing Alexandra Fuller can do, it's write. This unsentimental memoir of a white African childhood on various hardscrabble farms from 1972 to 1990, amidst periods of "unrest," including Rhodesia's long struggle against white rule, captivates as it horrifies. With humor and unflinching honesty, Fuller immerses the reader in the welter of smells, searing heat, torrential rains and myriad dangers from man, animal and plantlife.Her opening:  "Mum says, 'Don't come creeping into …
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A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood. Born in England and now living in Wyoming, Fuller was conceived and bred on African soil during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979), a world where children over five "learn[ed] how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill." With a unique and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. Curfews and war, mosquitoes, land mines, ambushes and "an abundance of leopards" are the stuff of this childhood. "Dad has to go out into the bush... and find terrorists and fight them"; Mum saves the family from an Egyptian spitting cobra; they both fight "to keep one country in Africa white-run." The "A" schools ("with the best teachers and facilities") are for white children; "B" schools serve "children who are neither black nor white"; and "C" schools are for black children. Fuller's world is marked by sudden, drastic changes: the farm is taken away for "land redistribution"; one term at school, five white students are "left in the boarding house... among two hundred African students"; three of her four siblings die in infancy; the family constantly sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. But Fuller's remarkable affection...
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ISBN-10: 0375507507
ISBN-13: 978-0375507502
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Genre: History
Publisher: Random House
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