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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Alexandra Fuller

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4882621,022 (3.82)37
Member:sushitori
Title:Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Authors:Alexandra Fuller
Info:Penguin Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Biography/Memoir, 1944 to present Great Britain and Africa - Kenya, Rhodesia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, apartheid, British colonialism, childhood, civil wars, family, loss, mental illness

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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller (2011)

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3.5 stars

Alexandra Fuller is writing primarily about her mother's life, but also a bit about her father's in this book. Her mother, Nicola, was born in Scotland, but lived most of her life in Central Africa. Nicola loved to sing and enjoyed drinking, but was prone to depression at times.

I enjoyed this. In addition to the biography itself, it was interesting to learn a little bit about what was going on in Africa at the time. It's quite short and fast to read. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 6, 2014 |
First book I've read by this author, and can't say I'll be seeking out another. It was testing to following and didn't really seem to have a point. There were a few funny parts; however, these could have just as easily been short stories as opposed to being a detail within this memoir. While there is an illusion of chronology, the bird-walks into memories get confusing and end abruptly.

The war over apartheid and historical commentary on the political state of Africa in its entirety serves more as a reason for the family's many moves than significantly informational. The importance and the struggle of this time frame come off as being grossly underwhelmed as Alexandra Fuller focuses on her parents' lack of reaction, to the point of offense at times. Denying and downplaying the significance does not better the situation; but then again, many people have similar coping mechanisms. It is almost like the historical bits are asides, a less important factor to the life and attitude of focused character (the matriarchal "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa"). Perhaps this is the definition of a memoir and why I don't read very many. ( )
  Sovranty | Jan 3, 2014 |
I read this together with her previous memoir, "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," and I enjoyed thinking about how these two books overlap (quite a lot) and how they differ. The earlier one centers on the life of the author herself, with her mother as a strong presence. The later book centers on her mother, and to a lesser extent, her father. Both books give an interesting perspective (that of the well-lubricated retreating colonizers) on central African history of the 20th century. The first book is more even in quality. The second book has a few annoying tics (sorry, I thought the repeated use of the phrase "two million percent" was tiresome), but it has some really great passages that more than make up for the tics. ( )
  jpe9 | Aug 7, 2013 |
Overall, nice tales out of Africa, complete with a crazy family and wild adventures featuring a very resilient bunch of colonists. The family's whacky personalities and their resilience through all of their moves to dangerous locales were fun to read about. The problem was not knowing much about the history of the African continent. The lack of detail made it a little hard to follow because the family relocated to so many different African countries. Also, the lack of a timeline, and jumping back and forth in time, made it a little confusing. The fact that the family never questioned their preferential treatment as white Africans or the horrors of Apartheid (i.e.: injecting cans of food with thallium, contaminating the river water with cholera, poisoning natives with anthrax) was somewhat disconcerting. ( )
  sushitori | Jul 28, 2013 |
(Borrowing heavily from the book jacket) Cocktails Under The Tree of Forgetfulness is a daughter's telling of her mother's life from her birth in Scotland in 1944 through her adventures in Central Africa ending in 2010 during the author's extended visit to Zambia to spend time with her inimitable parents, the self-styled "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa" aka Mum or Tub to her husband, the author's father Timothy Fuller, aka Dad. BTW, Dad seems to be the only family member to escape a potentially embarrassing nickname according to the List of Main Characters. (I'd need to reread to confirm this.)

There are several themes
- the probable mental illness of Nicola (manic-depression) in spite of which she recovers and continues to care for her family through the tragic death of three small children
- her parents love of Africa, "the warmth and freedom, the real open spaces, the wild animals, the sky at night as well as their acceptance of the extension of colonialism into apartheid by the Ian Smith-led government of Rhodesia. Along with 250,00 white Rhodesians "they were unwilling or disinclined to question the government policy that gave them preferential treatment over six million blacks, instead preferring to believe that theirs was a just and justifiable life of privilege."
- the cruelty of the war over apartheid, both for the blacks and for the sacrifices made by the white population who wanted only to live out their lives on the frontiers of Africa. I had not heard of the biological aspects of the war against the blacks - injecting cans of food with thallium, salting the river water with cholera and warfarin, and the intentional anthrax poisoning with anthrax of over 10 thousand men, women and children living in the Tribal Trust lands. ( )
  lynndp | Jan 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
“Cocktail Hour” is disturbing in places, funny in others. It pulses with life and love. Nicola’s voice threatens to drown out everyone else’s, but fortunately she’s hilarious, creative, opinionated, ribald and tragic.
 
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For Charlie—guide extraordinaire—with my love
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Our Mum—or Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she has on occasion preferred to introduce herself—has wanted a writer in the family for as long as either of us can remember, not only because she loves books and has therefore always wanted to appear in them (the way she likes large, expensive hats, and likes to appear in them) but also because she has always wanted to live a fabulously romantic life for which she needed a reasonably pliable witness as scribe.
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Traces the stories of the author's parents' respective childhoods in Kenya and England, recounts her own upbringing in Africa, and offers insight into the impact of their beliefs and the waning of the British empire on her parents' marriage.

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