Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Author: Alexandra Fuller [Website] aka Bobo Fuller
Publisher: Penguin Books
Length: 227 pages + "Nicola Fuller of central Africa: The Soundtrack" + "A Guide to Unusual or Foreign Words or Phrases"
Obtained: Library book kit copy
Why this book?:
It was chosen for a book club discussion, and I was determined to actually read the discussion book this time.
Well, it was interesting. Different. I didn't really know what to expect, so I can't say it wasn't what I expected. But it rather wasn't. I did a bit of looking things up in the middle of the book - lists books by African authors, reviews for a couple of those books, reviews for this book, reviews for the author's first book Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight...
I read two other books set at least partially in Africa immediately before this, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden. And this book is rife with racial references, race had been a subject in The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, and is apparently a hot topic world-round. I know the U.S. has been going through a lot, and the book community. But I'll be honest - I'm one of those ignorant Americans, because while I had a vague idea of racial tensions historically in South Africa, was not aware of much of the history and racial perspectives and war demonstrated by some of the events and discussion of this book. I knew pretty much nothing about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. So that was very educational for me.
Also interesting was the way mental illness was presented. That's another subject I've been seeing more of in my reading - and it's a subject that hits much closer to home for me personally. Alexandra seems to sometimes treat it as a joke, sometimes brushes it off, and sometimes presents it in the tragic way it can be. I guess I can understand all of those reactions - I've certainly felt and had all of them - and still I wasn't experiencing these events the same way as Alexandra did as she walked the reader through them.
The third point, though, is actually something that was noted in one of the reviews I read on Goodreads. That review referred to this book as a "love letter" to Alexandra's parents/family. I was about half way in when I read that, and the thought stuck with me. Even as Alexandra is describing parts of her life - things her parents (primarily her mother) have said, done, or experienced that seem horrible, sad, off-the-wall, etc., you can feel the love that she holds for them and that they hold for her. I definitely think that reviewer got it right.
Overall, I thought this was a thought provoking book. I'm still up in the air as to whether I might go back and read some of Alexandra's other books. Perhaps someday.