Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Years ago I read Mukiwa by Peter Godwin, about growing up in Rhodesia as it became Zimbabwe and expected something similar from this book. But Alexandra Fuller’s book is nothing like Godwin’s in that while he writes a sensitive, fair-minded memoir of a white family who wanted to support the country even after majority rule, Fuller’s book recreates a Rhodesian childhood, maybe a decade later, in starker terms. She writes exactly what she experienced, warts and all, without even a nod in retrospect to “political correctness”. Alexandra, or “
Life was always hard. Electricity was spotty and both excessive rain and drought were problems. Her mother was often drunk and depressed—and then manic (in later life she was diagnosed as manic depressive). Three children died, one in a drowning accident when the children were staying with a neighbor and Fuller felt responsible. Fuller and her older sister Vanessa survived despite malaria and dehydration to say nothing of various disease-carrying insects, spiders, scorpions, and the monitor lizards which could be 6 feet long. Her mother once shot a spitting cobra in the kitchen with an Uzi on automatic. There were always lots of dogs, usually horses (her mother was a superb horsewoman), and various other “pets” including a wounded owl who had to be fed dead rats and mice purchased from the African children on the farm.
The writing is stark and immediate, unmediated by later understanding. The weather. The wild life. The African employees who were not always loyal. The dictators. The poverty and waste and violence and injustice. Her love for