Review: Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

August 16, 2011 Memoir, Penguin, Review 10

  • Hardcover:256 pages
  • Publisher:Penguin Press HC, The (August 23, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1594202990
  • Source: Publisher

In the sequel to Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, which Fuller’s family refers to as “the Awful Book”, the author once again returns to Africa to detail and describe the childhood of her mother in Africa, her father’s in England, and her own childhood, set in the war-torn Africa.

Her mother, or Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she preferred to to introduce herself as, and her father, Tim, experienced a great deal of tragedy attempting to have a farm of their own in Africa. It was their life’s dream to do so, Alexandra never really understanding this until she gets a detailed portrayal of their lives.  Despite being forced to live through several wars, they still loved Africa and would sacrifice tremendously to keep the land they cherished.

Nicola suffered with bouts of depression and a literal mental breakdown.  Having read what she was forced to ordeal helps explain that better; had I been in a similar situation I doubt I could have done it.  From a young age, she was always a feisty little girl, always reluctant to succumb to a life others thought best for her, a life as a secretary or similar.  This book seems to almost be an apology to her mother for her previous book in which her mother wasn’t cast in the most positive of lights.  The reader gets a glimpse of her past, hereby validating the woman she is now.

If she had known then the score and epth of the tragedy that was to come, Mum might have borne the insults of her childhood with more fortitude, but the pathos and the gift of life is that we cannot know which will be our defining heartbreak or our most victorious joy.

Nicola was an incredibly brave and strong individual, never bowing down to fear:

In her view, the immediate peril of a situation is always weighed against the glamorous obituary that might be written for you if the thing killed you.

Fuller lessens the severity and tragedy, in a sense, by sprinkling bits of humor and retellings of humorous family stories.  Family pets were treated more lovingly than the children.  A name would pop up, and it wouldn’t be until paragraphs later that the name did not refer to a person, but a regaled pet instead.

Not only a retelling of a family’s history, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness provides a completely candid and rare history of Africa itself.  The civil war raging on around them was brutal, as was the racism that part of Africa itself, existing for so long that it had become engrained into the culture of the society. It’s rare to be able to experience the tragedies that took place in Africa at this time, I’m truly thankful to author for providing readers with a glimpse of this integral part of African history.

Since it is a sequel, it really is best to read the previous book as the author assumes you know (and can recall) the detals set forth in the book.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to reunite myself with Alexandra and her family in   Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight before starting this book.

This book, as with the previous, will forever resonate within me.  Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a story of family struggle, tragedy, but ultimately perserverence, a book to which I give my highest recommendation. A must read!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way:

Wednesday, August 17th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, August 18th: StephTheBookworm
Monday, August 22nd: Rundpinne
Tuesday, August 23rd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, August 24th: Jenny Loves to Read
Thursday, August 25th: Silver’s Reviews
Friday, August 26th: A Fanatic’s Book Blog
Monday, August 29th: An English Major’s Junk Food
Tuesday, August 30th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, August 31st: BookNAround
Thursday, September 1st: red headed book child

For more information on the author, be sure to check out her website.

10 Responses to “Review: Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller”

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    This book sounds really good – you know how I love memoirs. It sounds like I need to find Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight first.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Definitely. While you could probably get by without reading the previous book, you’d miss out on a lot of Fuller’s childhood. Both are breathtakingly beautiful memoirs.

  2. Pam

    I’ve heard really good things about the first and didn’t realize that there was a second. Looks like something I’ll need to look into. Thanks for the review!

  3. ExLibris_Kate
    Twitter: ExLibris_Kate

    I find this period of African history fascinating, as is the voice of the people that settled it. I think it’s something that, as Americans, we aren’t as familiar with. I’ve heard really good things about both books.

  4. Heather @ Book Addiction
    Twitter: BookAddictHeath

    This sounds really interesting. I always love a well-written memoir. I went ahead and placed a hold on the first book at the library, hopefully it is just as good as you say this one is! Thanks. 🙂

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    I LOVED Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight – it was one of the first books I read when I started blogging and I still remember clearly how much I loved it. I was so excited when I saw this book coming up on TLC’s schedule as I knew it would be just as good. I can’t wait to read it myself!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour Jenn.

  6. Lisa

    I haven’t read “Dogs” yet (but I will soon!), but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much when I read this one. I’m with you, this one is really going to stay with me. I loved how Fuller managed to mix her family’s history with Africa’s and blend humor with the tragedies.