the gregarious homebody

Sunday, April 19, 2009

She Had a Farm in Africa

It's been awhile since a book has really pulled me in and made me read it from cover to cover. I've started a few but couldn't finish them. Blogs have been my sole source of reading and even though there are some that qualify as LITerature, I missed the feeling of a good book in my hand. And since the last book that pulled me in was for kids, for god's sake, I'm actually relieved that, yes, I can enjoy Grown Up Books too.

I'd heard Alexandra Fuller interviewed on NPR a long time ago; 2001, I'm guessing because that's when her book was published. Her book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, is a memoir of her childhood in Africa. I've never read a memoir like it before, both for the subject matter and the style of her writing. Though there are plenty of reasons for her to be, Fuller is rarely, if ever, judgemental. And though she tells us she loves Africa, she is rarely sentimental about it. She is one of the most straight-forward writers I've ever read and I found that incredibly refreshing.

Her story is very often cringe-worthy. Her parents, expats from the U.K., move their children to Africa to farm. They move from farm to farm in Zambia, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and Malawi, with, it seems, their only goal being to find the most remote, the least modernized, the most difficult living conditions they can find. The descriptions of the insects alone made me incredibly thankful for my surroundings, not to mention the non-malaria-carrying mosquitos here in PA. In Fuller's childhood, lack of good plumbing, alcoholism, dangerous wild animals, inherent racism, war and death are almost commonplace. At times you wonder if she will crack like others in her life. Most times I just wanted to reach inside the book and mother the child she was then.

But, unlike other memoirs I've read, the author never seems to ask the reader to feel sorry for her. That was the most amazing part of all. Though the subject matter is pretty heavy and I would never have wanted to trade childhoods, I felt so uplifted by the story. It made me wish I felt so much a part of where I live, so connected to the place I've come from. And so forgiving of the people in my family who have disappointed me.

It's rare that I read a book that I want to read again, but I think I'll be starting at the beginning very soon. It's such a full book. I'm sure there are things I missed in my hurry to gobble it up the first time around.


Bea said...

Sounds good, guess I'll have to read it... I've closed many books without finishing Chapter 2 lately...

jen said...

Me too!

drollgirl said...

i read this book a while back and loved it.

adozeneggs said...

I'll check it out, sounds good.
Have you read Infidel?
Amazing book.
I'm still in the middle of the Gordon Ramsay bio. It's not a bad book, but in between work, blogging, and magazines there's barely any time left for my Amy Winehouse lovin' husband!

jen said...

Never read Infidel. Is it a love story (just kidding)?

adozeneggs said...

I can send it to you if you like.
Here's a link that give a way better synopsis than I could:

adozeneggs said...

Oh and we're planning another weekend in NYC in the next 2 months.
On the itinerary: Indian, Sushi, Chinese, and possibly sitting at the bar at Balthazar!
I'll let you know when we figure it out!

jen said...

I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Balthazar--and good idea about the bar. It's the best way to get in at a chi-chi restaurant. I took Steve to Artisanal, a cheese restaurant that I heard about from some foodie and we had a great time/meal at the bar.


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