Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller

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When Alexandra “Bo” Fuller was in Zambia a few years ago visiting her parents, she asked her father about a nearby banana farmer who was known as being a “tough bugger”. Her father’s response was a warning to steer clear of him: “Curiosity scibbled the cat, ” he told her. Nonetheless, Fuller began her strange friendhip with the man she calls K, a white African and veteran of the Rhodesian War. A man of contradictions, K is battle-scarred and work-weathered, a born-again Christian and given to weeping for the failure of his romantic life and the burden of his memories. Driven by K’s these memories of the war, they decide to enter the heart of darkness in the most literal way, by travelling from Zambia through Zimbabwe and Mozambique to visit the scenes of the war and to meet other veterans.

Scribbling the Cat

Cocktail Hour Under The Tree Of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness tells the story of the author’s mother, Nicola Fuller. Nicola Fuller and her husband were a glamorous and optimistic couple and East Africa lay before them with the promise of all its perfect light, even as the British Empire in which they both believed waned. They had everything, including two golden children – a girl and a boy. However, life became increasingly difficult and they moved to Rhodesia to work as farm managers. The previous farm manager had committed suicide. His ghost appeared at the foot of their bed and seemed to be trying to warn them of something. Shortly after this, one of their golden children died. Africa was no longer the playground of Nicola’s childhood. They returned to England where the author was born before they returned to Rhodesia and to the civil war. The last part of the book sees the Fullers in their old age on a banana and fish farm in the Zambezi Valley. They had built their ramshackle dining room under the Tree of Forgetfulness. In local custom, this tree is the meeting place for villagers determined to resolve disputes. It is in the spirit of this Forgetfulness that Nicola finally forgot – but did not forgive – all her enemies including her daughter and the Apostle, a squatter who has taken up in her bananas with his seven wives and forty-nine children. Funny, tragic, terrifying, exotic and utterly unself-conscious, this is a story of survival and madness, love and war, passion and compassion.
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Don’t Let’s Go To The Dog’s Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

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Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight is a wonderfully evocative memoir of Alexandra Fuller’s African childhood. Fuller regards herself “as a daughter of Africa”, who spent her early life on farms in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia throughout the turbulent 1970s and 80s, as her parents “fought to keep one country in Africa white-run”, but “lost twice” in Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is a profoundly personal story about growing up with a pair of funny, tough, white African settlers, and living with their “sometimes breathlessly illogical decisions”, as they move from war-torn Zimbabwe to disease and malnutrition in Malawi, and finally the “beautiful and fertile” land of Zambia.
Central to Fuller’s book is the intense relations between herself and her parents, a chain-smoking father able to turn round any farm in Africa, her glamorous older sister Vanessa, and the character who sits at the heart of the book, Fuller’s “fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, surprisingly witty and terrifyingly mad” mother.
Fuller weaves together painful family tragedy with a wider understanding of the ambivalence of being part of a separatist white farming community in the midst of Black African independence. The majority of the book focuses on Fuller’s early years in war-torn Zimbabwe, with “more history stuffed into its make-believe, colonial-dream borders than one country the size of a very large teapot should be able to amass.” This is the most successful dimension of the book, as Fuller describes growing up on farm where her father is away most nights fighting “terrorists”, and stripping a rifle takes precedence over school lessons. The sections on Malawi and Zambia are more prosaic, but this is a lyrical and accomplished memoir about Africa, which is “about adjusting to a new world view” and the author’s “passionate love for a continent that has come to define, shape, scar and heal me and my family.”
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