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Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood    by Alexander Fuller order for
Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight
by Alexander Fuller
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2003 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller writes of her African childhood. We grow up with her, share her family's tragedies, understand her mother's madness, and perceive her love for the continent. 'What I can't know about Africa as a child (because I have no other memory of any other place) is her smell; hot, sweet, smoky, salty, sharp-soft. It is like black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass.'

The noise of Africa also held her. She tells us that 'At dawn there is an explosion of day birds, a fierce fight for territory, for females, for food. The crashing of wings and the secret language of birds is such a perpetual background sound that I begin to understand its language' and 'In the hot, slow time of day when time and sun and thought slow to a dragging, shallow, pale crawl, there is the sound of heat.' Fuller's Mum and Dad ran tobacco farms in various countries of Africa the earlier Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mali.

To see Africa through the eyes of a child is a rare treat. Aside from the daily battle with heat, drought, poverty, and illness of a kind most of us never see, there is the constant danger from terrorists and roving soldiers. Every day is a struggle to stay alive, to survive. The Fuller's battles must be the same as those that plagued other white farmers. These are formidable obstacles that create their own set of problems. The ability to laugh and build a lighter atmosphere absorbed me.

Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight is an unusual story of an unusual family. One that is hard to put down. The love that exudes from the pages more than equals the anger at the blows life rained upon them. This is a first book for Alexandra Fuller. It's a well-written and captivating account of her childhood - one I wonder if I would have survived.

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