Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Fuller, Alexandra

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
In this sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, the author returns to Africa and the story of her unforgettable family. In this book she 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. The author interviewed her mother at length and has captured her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. 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, this book 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. -- From publisher.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781594202995
Branch Call Number: B-Fu9577c 2011
Characteristics: 238 p. :,ill., map ;,25 cm


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Jun 01, 2013
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This memoir has all the required ingredients: a mother worthy of main character status, an exotic setting (Kenya with its “perfect equatorial light”), and interesting times (end of the colonial era with its accompanying violent clashes). “Nicola Fuller Of South Africa,” as she refers to herself, is proud of her Scots ancestry (“We’re a very mystical, very savage people”), loves animals perhaps more than people, and is a proud believer in white rule (“We were pukka-pukka sahibs”). This portrayal of an exuberant character who rises above personal tragedy and political upheaval makes for a fascinating, evocative read.

Feb 11, 2013
  • rosemaryleslie rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I was excited to read this book because I read the author's first 2 books. It was very good but very similar to her first book and even had some of the same information so although I loved her first book, I wasn't thrilled by this one. My mom read this one before she read "Let's Not go to the Dog Tonight" and she liked it better that LNGTTDT. Maybe this is because the first one you read of hers seems so unique. A second one almost exactly the same isn't so thrilling! In spite of this, I think she is a good writer. Her descriptions of scenery, the deaths of family members, how people eat....anything...evoke visions you can sink your teeth into. I hope A. Fuller writes another book, but on a different subject or a different angle of Africa than she has been doing.

Apr 02, 2012
  • Liber_vermis rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The author's mother calls herself "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa". The reason is obliquely revealed by the author, on page 131, when she writes: "What Mom doesn't say, but what she means is that she wanted to stay in White-ruled Africa. ... her determination to stay in White-ruled Africa was the costliest decision of her life. The worst kind of costly; life and death kind of costly." Nicola Fuller can't think of herself as a citizen of black ruled Kenya, Zimbabwe or Zambia. This memoir is an amazing chronicle of spirit, industry, doggedness, personal tragedy, and luck. It coincides with the “freedom struggles” in Kenya and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) although the animosities, destruction and death are fleeting nightmares in contrast to Fuller’s prior memoirs.

Dec 09, 2011
  • lmcgovern rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A great memoir, written with wit and without trying to tell you how to feel about the writer's family.

Oct 16, 2011

Joyce 10/11

Oct 01, 2011
  • BeverlyK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Fascinating story of another time, another world -- although relatively modern. Brits persevere in Africa as the waning of the empire continues. An author's homage to her adventurous, headstrong, amazing mother (pictured on book jacket). Yes, there's racism -- but that's the way it was. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Would recommend Fuller's other book as well.

Sep 30, 2011

"Cocktail Hour is both Fuller’s book-length salute to the woman who raised her, and a searing critique of the racist views her mother lived by."
Rachel Pulfer
Globe & Mail


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Mar 30, 2012
  • Liber_vermis rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

"... It now seems completely clear to me, looking back, that when a government talks about "fighting for Freedom" almost every Freedom you can imagine disappears for ordinary people and expands limitlessly for a handful of people in power." [p. 29]


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