Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
Review of a book by Alexandra Fuller
Subtitle : An African Childhood
It’s easy to see where Don’t Let’s go the Dogs Tonight got it’s subtitle from. It’s a brilliantly simple read about life as seen through the eyes of a child.
This book is an easy flowing 310 page memoir written by Alexandra Fuller. British born, she moved to Rhodesia as a toddler in the early 70’s. It tells the story of her family & their lives, loves & losses in Rhodesia until 1980, then onto Malawi and finally Zambia.
The book details the author’s experiences through the eyes of a child, to the “coming of age” years. Nicknamed “Bobo”, she is the daughter of a white farmer. I assumed these families were rich and lived off the fat of the land, but not in this household.
Home & Family
Children have worms, dogs have ticks and fleas, flushing toilets are a luxury, parents work long and hard hours and life throughout is insecure in every way. Despite this, Bobo is aware that her family is better off than many others in the countries she calls home.
Cigs, Dip & Records
Dad smokes, drives, fixes machinery, plants, herds and dips cattle, patrols to defend against terrorists and navigates the family’s journey through the world. Mum drinks a lot, is dominated by mood swings, listens to records, tells the same stories over and over, sings, listens to records, rides horses, gets homesick for countries she has never lived in, defends her family, shoots a snake and tends the sick. Her sister Vanessa is always around to tease, appease and comfort her in the darkest times. They all handle firearms as easily as we handle handbags.
Bobo’s love for Africa, her parents and her siblings is clear, honest and pragmatic. The book reads like an intimate diary detailing daily routines with refreshing honesty and much humour. This personal account is woven with the stories of the people around her, the workers, the violence of the war, and bundles of deep love for the continent and its people.
It’s the story of a girl growing up in extraordinary times, and navigating her way through the fear, violence, heat, energy and breathtaking beauty that is Africa. An African childhood is never forgotten. (Read – We Killed Snakes for another short tale)
I enjoyed this very readable book because it was refreshing free of any attempt to explain the chaos during these times when the only sure thing was sudden change. It made me sigh, wince, and laugh out loud, sometimes all on the same page.
Anyone who has lived in Africa is likely to read this book through to the end, scorpions and all. It would appeal to others who like historical novels, dramas, have an interest in addiction or any curiosity around these times.
The family slang, the mixed language terminology, the brand names, the descriptions of the terrain and the oppressive heat, the reminders to wear a hat, the creepy crawlies, and the sense of living in present time and dealing with life as it is in the moment.
Would you love to own this book? Buy through the link below, or browse for other options.
I happened across a book extract that seems interesting, & I might explore it further when I get a chance. It looks at books (this one in particular) from the era, & I am posting the extract here so that I can find it. If you want to dip in – Click the book. It links to the source extract.