Don’t Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller (Random House, 301 pages, 2002, $17)
Scribbling the Cat: Traveling with an African Soldier (Penguin, 269 pages, 2005, $16)
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin, 258 pages, 2011, $16)
Leaving Before the Rains Come (Penguin, 274 pages, 2015, $20.95)
Now that I have your undivided attention, I must confess: this review is not of the book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, although I loved that book so much that I recently picked up Leaving Before the Rains Come – I never thought to review Dogs when I read it (one of two books I wish I had reviewed at the time – the other is by Karen Pryor).
Leaving Before the Rains Come
Rains is a lovely book, one I took to bed every night and looked forward to relaxing with another rhythmical, mesmerizing episode. Rains is a collection of conversationally delightful, yet a bit sad, essays told in a non-sequential manner, each built around a chapter in Alexandra Fuller’s life, mostly in Africa but also in Wyoming, a logical location to live in for one with Africa in one’s blood. I, too, have felt the spirit of Africa, though never having even visited there – more so than SEAsia where I did live, though Asia does not seem like a foreign country.
But, I digress.
This is about Rains but also about Dogs, the prequel to Rains.
Fuller is “Out of Africa”
Alexandra Fuller (Bobo), born in England, is the child of two "Brits" who settled in Africa on farms they managed. Africa is a hard land, full of the big wild mammals who require respect, full of the weather and the landscape that forms those who live there.
Fuller has an older sister and three siblings who didn’t make it, plus a unique mother, raised in Kenya, who experiences bouts of being a hippie (of sorts), an alcoholic of sorts, and even bi-polar at times – never a dull moment with the hardships of Africa and a slightly mad yet hardworking family.
Not your average mother. Not your typical childhood. But that is Africa, bigger than life.
There are droughts and rifles, there is heat and humidity and malaria and snakes and crocodiles and tigers and madness and episodes of sanity and verandas and fans and the ever constant struggle to remain lucid in the midst of such adversity, like the destitution in our own country 150 years ago – towns being miles away; doctors, seldom consulted – one fends for one’s self or uses native remedies. One has constant dogs and horses and learns from the native Africans all that which is important to know and to live.
And there is war, civil war and war against the white government in the capital. And there is one farm after another to manage, in one country after another from Zambia and Malawi to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.
Tomorrow: Part Two