Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

by Alexandra Fuller


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In this sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa and the story of her unforgettable family.

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother's childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father's English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller's mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. Fuller interviewed her mother at length and has captured her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.

We see Nicola and Tim Fuller in their lavender-colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid equatorial light, even as the British empire in which they both believe wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the couple finds themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow the Fullers as they hopscotch the continent, running from war and unspeakable heartbreak, from Kenya to Rhodesia to Zambia, even returning to England briefly. But just when it seems that Nicola has been broken entirely by Africa, it is the African earth itself that revives her.

A story of survival and madness, love and war, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author's family. In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a coffee table under their Tree of Forgetfulness on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days. In local custom, the Tree of Forgetfulness is where villagers meet to resolve disputes and it is here that the Fullers at last find an African kind of peace. Following the ghosts and dreams of memory, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is Alexandra Fuller at her very best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780857201270
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 09/28/2011

About the Author

Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972, she moved with her family to a farm in southern Africa. She lived in Africa until her midtwenties.


Wilson, Wyoming

Date of Birth:

March 29, 1969

Place of Birth:

Glossop, Derbyshire, England


B. A., Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1992

Table of Contents

Cast of Main Characters 9

Part 1 Nicola Fuller of Central Africa Learns to Fly 17

Nicola Huntingford Is Born 30

Nicola Fuller and the Fancy Dress Parties 49

Roger Huntingford's War 72

Nicola Huntingford Learns to Ride 87

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa Goes to Her High School Reunion 104

Nicola Huntingford, the Afrikaner and the Perfect Horse 124

Nicola Huntingford and the Mau Mau 143

Part 2 Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode 167

Nicola Fuller and the Perfect House 186

Nicola Fuller in Rhodesia: Round One 205

Nicola Fuller in England 224

Nicola Fuller in Rhodesia: Round Two 238

Olivia 261

Nicola Fuller and the End of Rhodesia 280

Part 3 Nicola Fuller of Central Africa and the Tree of Forgetfulness 301

Nicola Fuller of Central Africa at Home 327

Acknowledgments 341

Appendix: Nicola Fuller of Central Africa: The Soundtrack 345

Glossary: A Guide to Unusual or Foreign Words and Phrases 347

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Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Stazio More than 1 year ago
An amazing account of coming of age in Africa. The captivating language has the effect of making you feel as if you're one of the family, sitting under the tree, and listening to the stories in person. Upon finishing the book I found myself with the awesome feeling that I actually knew the land and its people. Fantastic read, highly recommended.
EHB More than 1 year ago
Did not enjoy this book as much as the first: Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight. And it helps if you have read the first book. But still entertaining.
san-k More than 1 year ago
It will help to have read Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" before reading her "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" because the second book helps you understand some of the wonderful, sometimes frightening, craziness of her life growing up in Africa. In any case, if you have dreamed of living in Africa - or any place that seems out of reach - both of these books will enthrall you. They may take away some of the magic of the place, but they show life as it was - real and threatening and unlike any growing-up most of us have enjoyed.
sfsd More than 1 year ago
Read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" and liked it very much. But this book created a such a clear picture of the author's mother that I felt her in the room with me. Wonderfully written and also very interesting insight into her parent's lives in Africa.
Rissers More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a interesting read, not too captivating though. I felt like it was all over the place. Based on other reviews I should have read the previous book first. It was good enough that I'd give another of her books a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As soon as I finished the book I immediately bought another one she wrote.
TassieLynne More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Alexandra Fuller's autobiography of her African Childhood; this sequel is even better. The stories about her mother are so entertaining, and at the same time frequently extremely poignant. I found myself laughing through tears at times. And craving a cocktail!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book that brings you a good feeling of Life in Africa.
bgKY More than 1 year ago
Good but not great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is laugh out loud funny alternating with deeply moving and intriguing. I loved the book from the start and found myself looking for other works written by this talented author.
RanMorrissett More than 1 year ago
Though its setting in central and east Africa certainly sets the mood, this is really a story of a daughter's love and appreciation of her parents. How Alexandra elects to cover certain gut wrenching moments - via candor, courage and a will to go on - helps make the book both piognant and memorable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author is a wonderful storyteller. I prefer her prior memoir (Don't Let's Go...) over this one simply because this on jumps around frequently in time and place, so it reads more like short stories. Still, when I read her work, it makes me want to move abroad and raise my own kids in such a magical place. Despite the challenges and huge losses, I can't help but be envious of the author's childhood adventures. A must read. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was transported to colonial Africa for a few days. I like Fuller's style of writing and her sense of humor. I found the book to be very entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful memoir with an equally wonderful cast of characters. A great finish to Lets not go to the dogs tonight. It's so refreshing to read a memoir with laugh out loud moments rather than painful chilhood abuse. Really well written.
Prinzez_W More than 1 year ago
An excellent writer. The read places you right their with her. Couldn't put it down.
ashmolean1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant book that grabs you from the beginning and wont let you go. Read in one day.
readyreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another mesmerizing memoir from Ms. Fuller. Her courageous and persevering parents certainly endured more than their share of sadness and hardship. Having just finished reading Peter Godwin's "The Fear, Robert Mugabe and the Downfall of Zimbabwe," I am wondering how the Fullers escaped the persecution of Mugabe and his thugs. Ms. Fuller's writing is very lyrical, almost poetic in some cases and I look forward to her next book.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bobo has written another AWFUL BOOK. Huzzah! Huzzah! Now before you think I am condemning this long awaited follow-up prequel/sequel to her memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, you should know that this is in fact how her family refers to her fantastic first book. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a worthy successor to her first critically acclaimed memoir. Knowing I had this book coming up on my list for review, I hurried to read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight about Fuller's African childhood because I am completely and totally compulsive about reading things in order (and I had owned the first book, unread, for well over a decade). Less obsessed readers do not need to do so though as this tale, centered around Fuller's dramatic and entertaining mother Nicola Fuller, easily stands on its own. Nicola Fuller grew up in Kenya while Britain was still ascendant on the African continent and her attitudes were shaped by life under a ruling minority. She is a fascinating, expansive, extravagant, over the top personality who shines as the emotional center of this book. With insight from her mother and extensive, casual interviews over cocktails under African sunsets, Fuller tells of her mother's childhood, young adulthood, charmed early life with Fuller's father, and the increasingly dangerous times and tragedies they survived. While this sequel does cover some of the same ground as her first memoir, it adds a whole new dimension to both Tim and Nicola Fuller, painting them more sympathetically than they were previously portrayed. And given the love that shines out from the pages of this book, this portrayal is probably the more accurate. Woven throughout the tales of her mother's life, are events of great historical significance. These forays into modern African history never come off as dry but instead as shaping the everyday life and tragedies of everyone around them, not excluding the Fullers themselves. Fuller does not whitewash the colonial sympathizing sentiment with which she grew up. She details the atrocities of a war that touched many people she knew and that constrained her own childhood. The acknowledgement that the African continent and the countries on it are complicated is a constant subtext. Nicola Fuller is also complicated, full of contradictions, and enduring just like the land she so loves. This memoir/biography is really a love story on many levels: the Fullers' love for Africa, Bobo's love for her mother, and Nicola's and Tim's steady love for each other. It is enchanting and funny, heartbreaking and nostalgic, a tale acknowledging and mourning the past but content to move into the future complete with cocktails served under the tree of forgetfulness (an actual tree on the banana and fish farm where Nicola and Tim live now). A lushly gorgeous rendering of a specific time and place, this was a charming, intimate, and delightful read.
BillPilgrim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I also read and greatly enjoyed Fuller's first memoir, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, which is mostly about her childhood growing up in Rhodesia at the end of its colonial rule. This book is about her parent's lives, mostly her mother's. Or, at least, her mother is the greater source of material for the book. As was "Don't Let's Go" this book also is fascinating and well written. Her mother refers to the first memoir as That Awful Book, and while the author is talking to her parents about their lives, her mother is frequently telling her that this something she can put into another Awful Book. We hear about her mother's childhood in Kenya, a brief stay in England where she attended a secretarial school (Mrs. Hoster's College for Young Ladies), meeting her husband at the airport when returning to Kenya, and then their life together, in Kenya, England, Rhodesia, and eventually Zambia. It was a life full of hardships and heartaches. Her mother struggled with depression (and was apparently bi-polar), but made it through. It is all told with good humor.This book is a very quick read (easily accomplished in a weekend)and quite enjoyable. It is told with good humor. The atrocities that were committed by the Europeans against the Africans are not overlooked or minimized. In the waning days of colonialism, many white settlers left realizing that their way of life would be ending. The Fullers did not leave. To do so would have been cowardly and traitorous. They loved the the land, and stayed in Africa to make a life for themselves after the end of white rule.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slow start to this eventually engaging rememberance of the author's parents and her life in Rhodesia. After I got into the pattern of how it was told, I could concentrate on the characters who were mainly her mother and father. This author also wrote LET'S NOT GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT.
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alexandra Fuller's first book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonifht focused on her own experiences growing up in Africa during its turbulent transition from colonial dependency to independence. In that book, her parents, at least to me, did not come off in the most attractive light. They seemed to be typical colonialists, clinging to the old ways of oppressing the African majority while trying to maintain all their old privleges. In this latest book, however, Ms. Fuller turns her focus on her parents, in particular her mother, and this time they are shown in a much more attractive light.Nicola huntingford, while born in Scotland during World War II, spent most of her childhood and young adult life in colonial Kenya. While she did not have a lot of formal education, she was smart and largely self-taught in farming. birding and the many skills necessary to srurvive on the African veldt. She was also an excellent horsewoman, a resourceful woman (probably absolutely necessary for living in Africa), full of high spirits and incredibly brave whether or not you approve of her principles. A quote from early on in the book seems to sum her up. Outfitting her two daughters for a fancy dress children's party in Rhodesia during the bush war for African independence, Nicola does a mental check list before walking out the door: "Bullets, lipstick, sunglasses. Off we go. Come on, Bobo, quick march."This intrepid woman marries fellow ex-pat Tim Fuller in 1964 and embarks on a life, first in Kenya and then in Rhodesia, Malawi, and finally in Zambia, trying to make a living farming from the inhospitable conditions in sub-Sahara Africa. Along the way there is lots of liquor, plenty of laughs, but also danger (all those guerilla wars) and the heartbreak of losing three children, the last of which almost causes her to give in to total madness.Ms Fuller also clearly loves Africa, and probably in some ways mourns a way of life that has utterly vanished. Her descriptions of the land with it's people, animals and distinctlive odors are compellling. However, she always looks at Africa and her parents with clear-eyed honesty. While acknoweldging their failures and foibles, she also loves them dearly, which is what makes this book such a joy to read that one hates to see it end.
SilversReviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
We all should have our own Tree of Forgetfulness.....what a wonderful thought."People often ask why my parents haven't left Africa. Simply put they have been possessed by the land. Land is Mum's love affair and it is Dad's religion." Page 117From the beautiful landscape of the Isle of Skye in Scotland to the lush lands of East will be taken on a journey with Nicola Fuller through her childhood and her adult life.This book is beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of feelings, daily living, and African landscapes. You will also be given a history lesson of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.The novel is also quite entertaining. You will love the stories, connect with the characters, feel their pain and mainly their love of the land in Africa even though Tim always said and was reminded by Nicola...."But I thought you said Africa was for the Africans." Page 210I thoroughly enjoyed this book......vicariously living the life of the Fullers was fun but frightening. I can't begin to give all the details in this short will definitely need to read it. You will love it. 5/5
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVED Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight and I LOVED this just as much. My only caveat is that it seemed to be written for Fuller's mother, to make up for what her mother called That Awful Book. Even so, it seemed as candid and honest as the first book: not pulling any punches, but adding depth to her mother's life so that we (and Fuller as well, presumably) understand her better and appreciate the person she became, after all the tragedies in her life.Fuller is an amazing writer.
Alie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed "Cocktail Hour" even though I haven't read Fuller's other book. I feel like I walked away learning a lot about Africa during British colonialism, in addition to a great story full of laughter and heartache. Now I'm interested to read Fuller's other book because this one was so intriguing. Overall, a very good read.
mahallett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i found the early part tedious but i continued and it improved. complex portrait of parents who love africa and are thus in conflict with black africans. i'm sure all original people hate colonizers. but those days are past. are colonizers actually as corrupt as original politicians? we could all learn from each other. i don't believe that all the problems in africa come from colonization.