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COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS by Alexandra Fuller

COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS

By Alexandra Fuller

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59420-299-5
Publisher: Penguin Press

Revisiting her family story first introduced in Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (2001), Fuller (The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, 2008, etc.) employs her mother’s exceptional life as a pivot point for chronicling her parent’s perseverance overcoming personal tragedies and the political chaos of mid-20th-century Africa.

The golden-hued life of white settlers in Kenya, ensured by the trappings of the British empire, was already a mirage by the mid 1960s when Fuller’s parents married. In 1964, the Republic of Kenya was born, ending white rule. For several years, the young couple lived idyllic lives, but the political climate was deteriorating. Like many “jittery settlers” Fuller’s grandparents sold their farm and returned to Britain, never to return to Africa. Fuller’s mother was devastated, and she and the author’s father remained but “receded further and further south as African countries in the north gained their independence.” The family resettled into a new home in Rhodesia, but a family tragedy soon found them, precipitating the family’s relocation to England, where the author was born. The dreary, rain-soaked island held little appeal for the family; Fuller’s mother recalls, “We longed for the warmth and freedom, the real open spaces, the wild animals, the sky at night.” After returning to Africa and borrowing money for a farm in Rhodesia, the family found themselves engulfed by civil war. After another devastating family loss catapulted Fuller’s mother into a cascade of breakdowns, their luck turned when the Zambian government issued them a 99-year lease on a farm. During a 2010 visit, Fuller’s parents were happy and at peace, their farm “a miracle of productivity, order and routine.”

Gracefully recounted using family recollections and photos, the author plumbs the narrative with a humane and clear-eyed gaze—a lush story, largely lived within a remarkable place and time.