This is the amazing, startling, and at times horrifying story of the author's childhood and young adulthood in Africa.
Her family was not affluent and lived with uncomfortable, and often unbearable, situations. The political violence, harsh environment, and tragic losses influenced this loving family for good as well as for bad. Despite the hardships, there are beautiful descriptions of this country that the family loved and could not leave. The author writes her story with humor as well as vividly describing the many interesting, sad, terrifying, and endearing experiences which the family lived through together. I didn't want the book to end. I felt as though I was, in some way, distantly related to this eccentric, dysfunctional, but fascinating family.
Karen Munro, February 22, 2012 (view all comments by Karen Munro)
Wow. This was a terrific book. Beautifully written and wonderfully honest about growing up as a (more or less) colonial white in several African countries during revolutionary times. Most of the book is about Fuller's early childhood. She reconstructs times and places in incredible, absorbing detail--the smells, tastes, and feelings as well as the events.
And she has a story to tell. The places where she grew up (poor, remote African farms) were hard-scrabble and dangerous, but they were also humdrum. Driving in the family's mine-proofed Range Rover, with her mother holding an Uzi out the window, is ordinary stuff. The Fuller children squabble in the back seat like any American kids on an obligatory family road trip, and their father, like every father, carps when they need bathroom breaks. Fuller's smart enough to know that this stuff, well-written, is just as fascinating to read as any of her family's more dramatic exploits. (There are plenty of dramatic exploits.)
Race and politics in Africa are obviously complicated, and Fuller doesn't try to solve any problems with this book. She focuses instead on her own family, their struggles and flaws and agonies and joys. By the end of the book I felt like I knew them personally, and liked them despite some of their (in retrospect) questionable decisions and values. I read this ravenously and didn't want it to end. I almost read the Reading Group Guide in the back, just to make the book last a little longer. That's high praise.
Susan Silva, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Susan Silva)
My Brother Gary is a Jesuit priest, assigned to Kenya out of the Oregon Province Offices in Portland. I ran across this book and found that it filled in the blanks about Kenya, and made me feel as if I could share some of Gary's experiences. It is at times a heartbreaking read, and there were pages where I wondered what the heck those parents were thinking. But at the end, I was gratified to have shared her experiences. I'm looking forward to reading her new book.
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andsuzanne, January 31, 2010 (view all comments by andsuzanne)
Absolutely one of my favorite books of the last decade! I was drawn in by the author's evocative voice as she described the hard-scrabble existence, adventures, and tragedy of growing up in war-torn and poverty stricken countries in Africa.
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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Random House Trade -
In her 2001 debut, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller recalled in vivid, often excruciating detail coming of age in Rhodesia as a long civil war raged in neighboring Mozambique and her own country slid down the violent path toward an independent, African Nationalist regime. Dogs astounded readers with its candor, describing from a young girl's point of view a wild landscape of far-reaching beauty and a continent in the throes of a vicious political antagonism she could not yet comprehend. Narrating from within her own family's constant struggle for survival, Fuller brilliantly assimilated the dangers of war (land mines planted on the road to the local store, guerillas camping in the nearby hills) into the relentless domestic tumult around her, so that readers could hardly distinguish between the two. The Boston Globe, echoing the opinion of critics and readers around the world, marveled, "The extremely personal and unguarded understatement of this memoir is far more powerful than any sociopolitical analysis or apologist interpretation could hope to be."
"This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over."
"Fuller is a gifted writer, capable of bringing a sense of immediacy to her writing and crafting descriptions so vibrant the reader cannot only picture the stifling hot African afternoon but almost feel it as well."
by The New Yorker,
"By turns mischievous and openhearted, earthy and soaring...hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling."
"Vivid, insightful and sly... Bottom line: Out of Africa, brilliantly."
by Publishers Weekly,
"A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood....Fuller's book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come."
by School Library Journal,
"This was no ordinary childhood, and it makes a riveting story thanks to an extraordinary telling."
"Nobody has ever written a book about growing up white in rural Africa the way Alexandra Fuller has. Her voice is mordant, her ear uncanny. Her unsentimentality is a pleasant shock. Her sense of humor is extremely sly. Without a trace of pretension, she quietly performs what is really a major literary feat — nailing both the poetry and the myopia of a child?s experience in a brawling, bad-luck family on the losing side of an anti-colonial war." William Finnegan, author of Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid and Cold New World: Growing Up in Harder Country
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"[A] gripping memoir...made up, in equal parts, of stark, matter-of-fact reminiscences about her childhood and fierce, Dinesenesque paeans to the land of Africa."
by The Boston Globe,
"As casually unadorned as rawhide, and just about as tough....The extremely personal and unguarded understatement of this memoir is far more powerful than any sociopolitical analysis or apologist interpretation could hope to be."
Fuller, known to friends and family as Bobo, grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. But Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is more than a survivor's story: It is the story of one woman's unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt. A Book Sense Selection. Photos.
In Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller's endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller's debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.
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