Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is surprisingly engaging and even moving.
Stephen Clingsman - New York Times
A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood. Born in England and now living in Wyoming, Fuller was conceived and bred on African soil during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979), a world where children over five "learn[ed] how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill." With a unique and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. Curfews and war, mosquitoes, land mines, ambushes and "an abundance of leopards" are the stuff of this childhood. "Dad has to go out into the bush... and find terrorists and fight them"; Mum saves the family from an Egyptian spitting cobra; they both fight "to keep one country in Africa white-run." The "A" schools ("with the best teachers and facilities") are for white children; "B" schools serve "children who are neither black nor white"; and "C" schools are for black children. Fuller's world is marked by sudden, drastic changes: the farm is taken away for "land redistribution"; one term at school, five white students are "left in the boarding house... among two hundred African students"; three of her four siblings die in infancy; the family constantly sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. But Fuller's remarkable affection for her parents (who are racists) and her homeland (brutal under white and black rule) shines through. This affection, in spite of its subjects' prominent flaws, reveals their humanity and allows the reader directentry into her world. Fuller's book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come. Photos not seen by PW. (On-sale Dec. 18) Forecast: Like Anne Frank's diary, this work captures the tone of a very young person caught up in her own small world as she witnesses a far larger historical event. It will appeal to those looking for a good story as well as anyone seeking firsthand reportage of white southern Africa. The quirky title and jacket will propel curious shoppers to pick it up.
It is difficult for most people even to imagine the world described in this book, let alone live in it as a child: the nights are dark, scary, and filled with strange noises; the people welcome you and despise you at the same time; there is a constant anxious feeling burning in your stomach, which, you later realize, is fear of the unrest surrounding you. The British-born Fuller grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), losing three siblings to disease as her father fought in the Rhodesian civil war and her mother managed the farm. She approaches her childhood with reserve, leaving many stories open to interpretation while also maintaining a remarkable clarity about what really transpired in her homeland, in her own home, and in her head. The narrative seems complicated, weaving together war, politics, racial issues, and alcoholism, but its emotional core remains honest, playful, and unapologetic; it hardly seems possible that this 32-year-old has so much to say and says it so well. In this powerful debut, Fuller fully succeeds in memorializing the beauty of each desert puddle and each African summer night sky while also recognizing that beauty can lie hidden in the faces of those who have crossed her path. Highly recommended.
Fuller's debut is a keen-eyed, sharp-voiced memoir of growing up white in 1970s Africa. Born in England in 1969, the author by age three had moved to civil-war-torn Rhodesia, where her parents had lived before they lost an infant son to meningitis. Tim and Nicola Fuller ran a farm on Rhodesia's eastern edge. Mozambique, just across the border, was deep into its own civil war, and in this hostile geopolitical climate the Fullers struggled for a toehold that would keep Rhodesia white-ruled. In 1976, Nicola gave birth to a daughter who drowned in a duck puddle less than two years later. Minority rule ended in 1979; the country began its gradual, uneasy metamorphosis into independent Zimbabwe. The Fullers lost their land; Nicola bore and for the third time lost a child. To gain distance from all this failure, the family moved to dictator-controlled Malawi before ultimately settling in Zambia, where Tim and Nicola remain to this day. Fuller makes no apologies for her parents' (especially her mother's) politics. The loose structure and short takes here crystallize and polish the general subjects—race, politics, history, home, loss—into diamond-hard clarity without sacrificing the pace and intensity of the narrative or distracting the reader from the appeal of the personal. Like Dinesen, the author takes an elegiac tone, but it's balanced by a bouncy lyricism derived from compression, humor, and gimlet-eyed compassion. Fuller loved and loves her Africa; in the final analysis that passion takes a bright and vivid story to the next level, and even further. An illuminating, even thrillingly fresh perspective on the continent's much-discussed post-colonial problems.
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