Thursday 10 March 2016

Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight
  By Alexandra Fuller

Written by a British expatriate, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is a memoir of growing up in Africa.  Set in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique and Malawi, this book follows Alexandra Fuller from the age of three as her family builds a life in an unforgiving and remote land.

The Fullers believe in colonial rule.  Although they are immigrants to Africa, they consider black Africans an inferior race.  Africans are employed as cooks, nannies, houseboys, labourers and trackers, but it’s the Fullers who run the farms on which they live.  And initially, it is also the British who govern.

Over time, Africans begin to rebel against their European rulers.  “Terrorism”, in the form of attacks on white settlers, is a constant concern for the Fullers.  Corruption in Africa is rife, war is rampant, and lawlessness is the rule.  Although the family lives with the uncertainty of government takeovers and later, spies, they never seem particularly bothered.  They contend with police road checks (which usually involve a bribe) and violence, not to mention disease, scorpions and polluted water with relative ease.  In a sense they are true Africans as all of these third world hardships are simply a fact of life for them.

Clearly there is nothing glamourous about farm life in Africa.  Alexandra, known as Bobo, is a true farm girl.  She revels in the horses, dogs, dirt and rhythm of life on the farm.  Having moved to Africa at the age of three, she also clearly adores the continent; Fuller’s writing brings to life the smells, the sweltering heat, and the stunning beauty.

On a more intimate note, Fuller describes the family’s loss of several children. The pain of these losses is felt most acutely by her mother, who struggles with alcoholism and her mental health as time wears on.  Her mother’s behaviour has a profound effect on the family of course.  Yet the Fullers soldier stoically on, throughout the growing familial madness.  The book ends on a positive note as both living daughters embark on their own lives. 

Alexandra Fuller provides an enlightening glimpse into the hearts and minds of colonial settlers.  And despite its dysfunctionality, I felt a deep affection for her family.  A fantastic read!

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