Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Book - 2011
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Penguin Putnam
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year 

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa and to her unforgettable family, whom readers first met in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. At the heart of this family, and central to the lifeblood of her latest story, is Fuller’s iconically courageous mother, Nicola (or, Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she sometimes prefers to be known). Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye to a warlike clan of highlanders and raised in Kenya's perfect equatorial light, Nicola holds dear the values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. With a lifetime of admiration behind her and after years of interviews and research, Fuller has recaptured her mother's inimitable voice with remarkable precision. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, exotic, terrifying and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.

We see Nicola as an irrepressible child in western Kenya, then with the man who fell in love with her, Tim Fuller.  The young couple begin their life in a lavender colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid honeyed light, even as the British empire in which they both once believed wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the Fullers find themselves in a world they hardly recognize. We follow Tim and Nicola as they hopscotch the continent, restlessly trying to establish a home, from Kenya to Rhodesia to Zambia, even returning to England briefly. War, hardship and tragedy seem to follow the family even as Nicola fights to hold onto her children, her land, her sanity.  But just when it seems that Nicola has been broken by the continent she loves, it is the African earth  - and Tim's acceptance of her love for this earth - that revives and nurtures her.

A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author’s family and of the price of being possessed by this uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land. In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a table under their Tree of Forgetfulness in the Zambezi Valley on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days. In local custom, the Tree of Forgetfulness is where villagers meet to resolve disputes and it is here that the family at last find an African kind of peace. Following the ghosts and dreams of memory, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is Alexandra Fuller at her very best.

Alexandra Fuller is also the author of the forthcoming novel, Quiet Until the Thaw

Baker & Taylor
A sequel to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight traces the stories of the author's parents' respective childhoods in Kenya and England, recounts her own upbringing in Africa, and offers insight into the impact of their beliefs and the waning of the British empire in her parents' marriage. 100,000 first printing.

& Taylor

Traces the stories of the author's parents' respective childhoods in Kenya and England, recounts her own upbringing in Africa, and offers insight into the impact of their beliefs and the waning of the British empire on her parents' marriage.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781594202995
Branch Call Number: B FULLER
Characteristics: 238 p


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Nov 02, 2018

This book became boring quite quickly. If you want to read about a Kenya memoir the series from Corinne Hoffman a more interesting.

Manateestarz Jun 21, 2017

In this sequel to Let's don't go to the dogs tonight, Fullerton explores her parent's lives more fully. She tries to understand why her parents, especially her mom, made certain decisions. She tries to understand their mindset.
A really good read and a well-written look into the twilight years of British Colonial Africa.

Aug 03, 2015

Very frustrating and quite a disappointment, considering the glowing reviews this book has recieved. Fuller is clearly fascinated by her self-absorbed, scatterbrained drama queen of a mother and by the lurid and bloody legends of her highland Scots ancestors. The author never sticks to one thread of her story long enough to capture a reader's interest and makes things worse by trying to be oh so clever; one can imagine her saying to herself "this will give them a shock" as she throws in another violent little tidbit. I found it impossible to finish the book, had to give up after about 150 pages.

PoMoLibrary Jul 08, 2015

From our 2015 #80DayRead Summer Reading Club traveler Erin: The author tells the story of her mother's life growing up in Africa. A picture of what Africa was like during war times for a white colonial family who considered themselves Africans.

WVMLStaffPicks Jun 01, 2013

This memoir has all the required ingredients: a mother worthy of main character status, an exotic setting (Kenya with its “perfect equatorial light”), and interesting times (end of the colonial era with its accompanying violent clashes). “Nicola Fuller Of South Africa,” as she refers to herself, is proud of her Scots ancestry (“We’re a very mystical, very savage people”), loves animals perhaps more than people, and is a proud believer in white rule (“We were pukka-pukka sahibs”). This portrayal of an exuberant character who rises above personal tragedy and political upheaval makes for a fascinating, evocative read.

Feb 11, 2013

I was excited to read this book because I read the author's first 2 books. It was very good but very similar to her first book and even had some of the same information so although I loved her first book, I wasn't thrilled by this one. My mom read this one before she read "Let's Not go to the Dog Tonight" and she liked it better that LNGTTDT. Maybe this is because the first one you read of hers seems so unique. A second one almost exactly the same isn't so thrilling! In spite of this, I think she is a good writer. Her descriptions of scenery, the deaths of family members, how people eat....anything...evoke visions you can sink your teeth into. I hope A. Fuller writes another book, but on a different subject or a different angle of Africa than she has been doing.

Mar 30, 2012

The author's mother calls herself "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa". The reason is obliquely revealed by the author, on page 131, when she writes: "What Mom doesn't say, but what she means is that she wanted to stay in White-ruled Africa. ... her determination to stay in White-ruled Africa was the costliest decision of her life. The worst kind of costly; life and death kind of costly." Nicola Fuller can't think of herself as a citizen of black ruled Kenya, Zimbabwe or Zambia. This memoir is an amazing chronicle of spirit, industry, doggedness, personal tragedy, and luck. It coincides with the “freedom struggles” in Kenya and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) although the animosities, destruction and death are fleeting nightmares in contrast to Fuller’s prior memoirs.

lmcgovern Dec 09, 2011

A great memoir, written with wit and without trying to tell you how to feel about the writer's family.

Oct 01, 2011

Fascinating story of another time, another world -- although relatively modern. Brits persevere in Africa as the waning of the empire continues. An author's homage to her adventurous, headstrong, amazing mother (pictured on book jacket). Yes, there's racism -- but that's the way it was. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Would recommend Fuller's other book as well.

debwalker Aug 25, 2011

"Cocktail Hour is both Fuller’s book-length salute to the woman who raised her, and a searing critique of the racist views her mother lived by."
Rachel Pulfer
Globe & Mail


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Mar 30, 2012

"... It now seems completely clear to me, looking back, that when a government talks about "fighting for Freedom" almost every Freedom you can imagine disappears for ordinary people and expands limitlessly for a handful of people in power." [p. 29]


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