While on my way to buy some blueberries from No Frills, I stopped at the Goodwill store next door to pick up a book to relax with in the evening.
I found a gem of a book, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” by Alexandra Fuller.
What makes the book so enjoyable is not just the extraordinarily delightful writing style in which Alexandra writes and speaks to us about growing up in Africa. What I really enjoyed was the fullness of life and happiness which comes out of the book despite terrible and traumatic incidents in her life.
The book reminded me of Mama Mia – poor people scraping out a living on a remote Greek island, yet so full of happy cheer.
I love reading about stories which expose the other world to me, so different from the abundance (and plastic life?) we are used to in North America. The anecdote about an African woman hesitating before buying one cigarette – not a cigarette pack – when she gets her monthly wages made me pay more attention to the expensive Starbucks Latte for which I just now paid six dollars. Alexandra writes about a life in which boiled eggs, tea, bananas, milk and tomatoes were the tastiest treats you could imagine. Everyday life made special by the author’s pen.
What makes Alexandra Fuller so special?
Her writing style is so picturesque. Bobo – Alexandra’s pet name – was afraid to go into the caves because a “leopard may be silently panting there”. After a man tried to molest her and her sister, she climbed into her parent’s car when they came back, “we climbed into the car, we sullied good” – this phrase brings out in such a forceful manner the feelings a woman wronged has. A woman who is the target of exploitation often feels that she did something wrong. And with a single poignant phrase Bobo brings it home to us.
But what maker her book really special is that she herself is full of life – and writes about a family who got many things right. In all the happiness and terrible sadness, she doesn’t have stories about her parents fighting. Is she lying by not telling us about that private world? I don’t believe so. Despite their possible disagreements, her parents took care of each other and fully cooperated with each other’s projects. Her mother threw herself fully in the new Tobacco farm to which her father moved his family after they were kicked out of Rhodesia. When her mother went insane, her father continued to take care of her. There aren’t stories about her father necking with African girls in the bushes. Life is not easy, but if we stick to the basics we can still squeeze a lot of happiness out of it.
I couldn’t help wondering about something else. The English people were the colonial rulers of Africa. So a pauper English family who barely has enough to eat in England could go to Africa, enter into an agreement with the Zambian president to lease a money making Tobacco farm and earn enough to send children to white only schools.
Am I being unfair? I am. The fact that UK conquered the world and milked out its goodness to keep the Royal Family in good health is not Alexandra’s fault. Alexandra lives a life with which she has been blessed, by the simple rules of the world she grew up in. She delights us, she teaches us and she gives us a book which I have immensely enjoyed reading and which is now a part of my permanent collection.