Title: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
Year Published: 2003
Source: I purchased this book
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller, is the author’s account of growing up in the countries of Rhodesia , Malawi and Zambia. Fuller’s family was originally from England, where Alexandra was born. Her family moved to Africa during a time of great unrest. Rhodesia was still white-ruled, but at the tail-end of British colonialism. The parents like to live in isolated areas, far away from towns and cities.
However, Fuller’s parents were not rich, titled landowners, but rather poor farmers barely eking out an existence. Of course, they still had black servants. Even if Rhodesia didn’t have an official “apartheid” which in Afrikaans means “apartness”, everything is separate. The different races go to different schools, stores, and hospitals.
Those blacks fighting for independence are considered “terrorists”.
So life is tough for everyone:
Vanessa and I, like all the kids over the age of five in our valley, have to learn how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill.
Fuller also loves Africa. The book is filled with rich imagery and poetic language:
What I can’t know about Africa as a child (because I have no memory of any other place) is her smell; hot sweet, smoky, salty, sharp-soft. It is like black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass.
This story is fascinating, mostly taking place during the time of the Rhodesia Civil War, when blacks decided that they wanted their land back and to rule, which is what eventually happened (Rhodesia is now called Zimbabwe). Eventually, their land is taken away from the family and eventually the Fullers move first to Malawi, and then to Zambia.
The book is not heavily political, however, as it mostly concerns what happened within the Fuller family, and that story is almost unbearably tragic at times. Out of five children born to the family, only two survive. Alexandra blames herself for the death of her sister, and I strongly suspect that she still is bearing that terrible burden today:
No one ever came right out and said in the broad light of day that I was responsible for Olivia’s death and that Olivia’s death made Mum go from being a fun drunk to a crazy, sad drunk and so I am also responsible for Mum’s madness. No one ever came right out and said it in words and with pointing fingers. They didn’t have to.
However, I still highly recommend this book. It is very funny but also achingly sad at times. You will be a richer person for having read it.
It’s a Blog Hop!
Every weekend, Crazy for Books has a Blog Hop for Books Blogs!
The question of the week:
Q. Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?
A. No, I don’t. I find it hard to compare totally different books with each other. If I was writing a books blog reviewing books all from the same author, I might very well rate them. But how do I compare a very serious, tragic book with a light-hearted one? Or a book that has a message with a book that is light-hearted and fun to read. I do admire those book bloggers who rate books, but I have decided not to do that.