Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin, 2011) was the first book I mentioned on my fall reading list. And like the other two books on the list, I finished reading it before the first day of autumn. Oops. Maybe I should have named it a late-summer reading list.
In any case, I enjoyed Cocktail Hour, Alexandra Fuller’s new memoir of her African upbringing. Unlike her first, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (Random House, 2003), this one focuses primarily on her parents’ courtship and the early years of their marriage. I was familiar with their family tragedies, but Fuller writes so beautifully that I didn’t mind reading about these horrible events again. Not many writers have that power.
Nicola Fuller is an eccentric, often close-minded, outspoken mother and from the beginning of Cocktail Hour, she harps on “That Awful Book”, ie, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. So daughter Alexandra devotes this new book to her mother, trying to make amends.
This book goes less into politics than her first one. I feel like I better understand her parents after reading Cocktail Hour. Fuller writes about a turbulent and war-torn Africa and her parents’ reasons for staying all these years after so many colonists left.
I would recommend reading Don’t Let’s first before this book because you’ll get a better appreciation of the African social and political climate. Other similar memoirs I enjoyed include Casting with a Fragile Thread, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, and Rainbow’s End.