Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller’s memoir is a brutally funny, sometimes poignant, ode to her parents, Nicola (Tub) and Tim. Because of their love for the wide-open spaces of Africa, Tub and Tim blindly hang onto life in Rhodesia—a drink in one hand, an Uzi in the other—as colonialism goes through its death throes during the 1970s: “[It] was worth dying for if you were white (if you were black and you wanted to die for [it], that was another thing altogether. Then you were an unpleasant uppity Kikayu anarchist).” Fuller’s mother brought back memories of my own father, who, like Tub, also had his life altered by war. Such people could be lovable, courageous and interesting, but also hard-assed and always ready to dole out barbs to their kids. Tub explains the medicinal value of alcohol to her daughter: “They even advertised it: ‘Guinness is Good for You.’ Mind you, it didn’t do much to guarantee beautiful babies.” After many knocks, including the loss of three children, and several homes, the couple deigns to assimilate, sighing, “Africa is for Africans.”