Rating – 3/5 stars
Date Finished – July 25, 2017
59/120 in 2017
Publication Date – 2001
I picked this memoir up after it felt like the world was conspiring to hand it to me – I heard about it on a podcast that I listen to every week (What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel), I downloaded the new Libby by Overdrive app and it was the first book that popped up as a recommendation, and then I got Alexandra Fuller’s newest book (a novel: Quiet Until the Thaw) in the mail from the Odyssey Bookshop’s First Editions Book Club. So, I listened to the universe and I picked up Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight.
Published in 2001, Fuller’s first memoir is a classic of the personal memoir genre, and especially beloved by fans of the stranger-in-a-strange-land subgenre of memoirs (I count myself among that very specific crowd). I was immediately grabbed by Fuller’s account of her childhood in war-torn Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the book was so beautifully written – I enjoyed every description and turn of phrase – but I was ultimately unsatisfied by the disjointed, scattered nature of the book.
I found it frustrating that Fuller didn’t offer much reflection or backdrop to her story – I felt unmoored in time and often place. Fuller tells these shiny little anecdotes (I’ll not soon forget the image of her sister riding in the car seated on a toilet, waiving to laughing children), but I couldn’t always tell how old she was, where she was, or why her parents made the choices they did.
I read a 2003 interview with Fuller, and she said “There is, in all my writing, a real desire to take the reader where very few of them would go on their own. One way to do that is to now allow them the luxury of a tour guide, if you like. This cold bath of reality is to shake people into the realization that this is not going to be a romantic handholding; this is what it feels like to be there. This is the shock of reality.”
I have to hand to her – she absolutely accomplished what she set out to do, and I admire and understand her motivation to tell her story in this way. Ultimately, though, it didn’t quite land for me.