Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Fuller) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
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1. How would you describe Alexandra Fuller's parents, especially, her mother Nicole? Is her mother mad, courageous, stubborn, foolish? Why does she stay on in Africa after having lost so much?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: What is the author's attitude toward her mother? At one point she ascribes wisdom to her mother: few "have the wisdom to look forward with unclouded hindsight." What does she mean...and do you consider such a trait wisdom or something else?

3. Nicole and Tim Fuller have such divergent personalities: how would you describe their marriage? What enables their marriage to survive the many tragedies and calamities over the years?

4. Who are some of the other colorful, eccentric characters in Fuller's memoir you particularly enjoyed reading about?

5. Although the author moves to America in 1994, her love for Africa remains, shining through her prose. Point to some examples of both the beauty and dangers Fuller describes. Would you wish to have had such a childhood in Africa?

6. Nicole Fuller hoped her life was dramatic or romantic enough to inspire a biography "along the lines of West With the Night, The Flame Trees of Thika or Out of Africa," says her daughter. Have  you read or seen any film adaptations of those other works? If so, how does Cocktail Hour compare?

7. Have you read Fuller's previous memoir, "The Awful Book," as her mother refers to it? If so, how do the two works compare with one another?

8. What were Alexandra's parents' attitudes toward colonialism? Were they unabashed supporters or what the author refers to as "White liberals who survived postindependence...by declairing with suddenly acquired backbone and conviction that they'd always abeen on the side of 'the people'"? How does Alexandra portray Rhodesian colonialism? What were its human costs?

9. Is it a fair comparison to see Nicole Fuller, from childhood on, as the white African version of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind?

10. In her New York Times review, Dominique Browining writes that authors write memoirs to "revisit  an episode that shattered a life...perhaps hoping, subconsciously, that things will turn out differently—or more realistically, that we will discover a key that unlocks a memory's mysterious urgency." Taking this observation, how can you apply it to what may have been Fuller's motivation for writing Cocktail Hour?

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