Random House, 2001
It’s the 1970’s and Bobo (Alexandra) has been living in Rhodesia since she was two. She’s a young white girl, born to English parents. That’s her on the cover of the book. Don’t you love that expression on her face? She is curious, feisty while still being a sweet child. What I really admired is her strong inner core, her fierceness. She needs it for Africa is her home. It is all she knows. She loves her country but it’s also frightening.
In this memoir of her early childhood, Alexandra, called Bobo, recalls the details of her family life as well as the events in her country. Rhodesia was fighting to be free of British rule. It succeeded (becoming Zimbabwe) but it was not the safest environment for a young white girl. Bobo learned, at a young age, to be proficient with an uzi and other weapons.
Bobo/Alexandra’s family life was also complicated. They were poor, moved a lot, drank even more and experienced the loss of three children. Only Bobo and her older sister survived. To be kind, I’ll say that her mother is a character. She swings back and forth in her moods, is a strong racist, and drinks so much some days that she neglects her children. But the family holds themselves together with an enormous bond.
Alexandra tells the story in Bobo’s voice and from Bobo’s head. It worked very well for me. I could hear the little girl as she observed and interacted with the world around her. The earliest accounts skip around a bit as does a child when telling you about events. The book has both it’s sad and humorous moments. I sobbed reading about the drowning death of Bobo’s little sister. I hooted out loud when reading about the visit of two missionarys – the horrible tea and sandwiches and their quick departure after sitting on a couch loaded with fleas.
One of the best parts of Alexandra Fuller’s writing is her ability to convey to the reader the sights, sounds and smell of Africa.
What I can’t know about Africa as a child (because I have no 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.
This is a beautifully written trip to another place and another time. I highly recommend it.
Source: I read this book as a part of a discussion group at the public library. You can also find this book at Amazon.