Posted 20 hours ago

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

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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. Fuller’s mother pretends to be Scottish, but her heart is African – whether Africa wants that heart, or not.

She grows up during the bush war that helped turn Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, and she survives that too, in the gung-ho colonial style. I would have never have dreamed of reading a book about Africa; the country just never appealed to me. This one is written in present tense and, like Dylan Thomas, there is much that goes unexplained that creates a sense of chaos that is appropriate for her life as a child. 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.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. And she instilled in Bobo, particularly, a love of reading and of storytelling that proved to be her salvation. NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller shares visceral memories of her childhood in Africa, and of her headstrong, unforgettable mother.

Maybe it's just her writing style, but I wondered if a young life filled with danger and uncertainty and pain taught her not to feel anything too deeply.

Bobo and her sister are warned not to come into their parents' bedroom in the night because they sleep with loaded guns. 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. Their frequent moves and their physical and racial isolation force the family to learn to accommodate each other’s flaws/quirks, and they become very tight-knit because of (not in spite of) their individual eccentricities.

Then my mind would wander to America, and how parents took their kids across it in covered wagons, and how dangerous that was because sometimes entire families were killed or died from starvation or other causes.Don’t exaggerate,” her mother says when she sees dead men on the road, “you saw body bags, not bodies. When they arrived back at Dublin Airport, my aunt mistook her aunt for their new houseboy, and wordlessly handed over her suitcase. 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 didn't have any substantial relationships with anyone, other than each other), and even those characters could use a bit more context.

It is the story of one woman's unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt.

The book was hard to enjoy at times since my mind was often on the children, and I kept questioning the parent's reason for bringing them to Africa during such a turbulent time. Through her rich descriptions of sights and sounds we know that she truly loved this land of rich, pungent flora ad fauna. As the tension builds in the novel the author knows when it has reached the breaking point and throws in some humor.

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