Don't Let's Go the the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller (336 pgs, Random House) is my first non-fiction book of the year. I choose to read it because the Around the World in 80 Books book club chose it as a selection.
Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."
They sleep with a loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, "Don't startle us when we are sleeping."
"We might shoot you".
"Okay." As it is, there seems a good chance of getting shot on purpose. "Okay, I won't".
And from the first paragraphs of this memoir you can get just a taste of what it was like growing up in the war-ravaged country of Rhodesia. Alexandra "Bobo" Fuller moved to Rhodesia (which eventually became Zimbabwe) when she was just a toddler. Bobo, her sister Vanessa, and her parents moved to a farm on the edge of the country. Both her mother and father join the police reservists and join the war, fighting to keep Rhodesia controlled by the British. The kids are always on the lookout for "terrorists" whom they fear will "cut off their eyelids". They deal with curfews and war, always on the lookout for landmines.
But when the war is over and the Fullers are on the losing side, they have to come to terms with drastic changes. Their farm is auctioned off for "redistribution" to the black families and they are forced to move. From Zimbabwe to Malawi and eventually to Zambia, the Fullers stick together through good times and bad.
This is the story of life seen through the eyes of a child. A life that is tough with many obstacles to overcome. Her parent's racism, war, brutal countryside, and the loss of several siblings makes Bobo into the person she is today. Her mother, after losing 3 children, becomes manic depressive and spends more time drunk than sober. She seems to be more affectionate to her dogs than her daughters. Her father works hard on the farm, trying to keep them afloat. But even he has a hard time dealing the losses that they are faced with. And Bobo herself feels responsible for the death of her sister, Olivia. But through it all, Fuller does a great job of projecting her love for her family and for Africa, her home. It's a wonderfully written book, with lots of anecdotes and pictures from her time in Africa. 4/5