Book Review: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

by Alexandra Fuller

Random House, 2001

Rating: A

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.

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10 Responses to Book Review: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

  1. JoAnn says:

    Bought this book years ago for a book club discussion, and never read it. I think it’s still around here somewhere… will have to look. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. Stacy says:

    This looks amazing. I don’t read many memoirs, but this one is a possibility. Tears and laughter in one book always makes me think it a winner and your grade of A just clonches it.

  3. Heather J. says:

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed this book! It read it before I started blogging and just loved it. Did you know that she has a follow-up memoir? It’s called SCRIBBLING THE CAT and tells about a return visit to Africa she made as an adult; it is really, really good.

  4. I saw this on your sidebar and was immediately attracted to the picture on the cover! I love the quote you gave too!

  5. Glad to see this review . I too have been looking at that wonderful cover picture on your sidebar and meaning to look it up. Since it’s not a new book I should be able to find this at the library — it’s now on my list!

  6. candice says:

    I’ve been very interested in this book ever since you posted it in the sidebar, both for the beautifully zany photo and the title (it sounds so very “british”)! Your review of it makes me want to read it and suggest it to my book group. Sounds like it will keep readers engaged and provide some very interesting conversation. I love reading memoirs, they have a wonderful dream-like quality, thanks.
    Also, good to know there is the follow-up memoir, with another great title!

  7. Barbara says:

    I’m drawn to the cover picture as well. She looks like a real character even at such a young age. The story sounds interesting; I’ll look for it.

  8. Kathy says:

    Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine raising a child somewhere that required learning to use an uzi. Bobo story sounds fascinating.

  9. Staci says:

    Yes, I love that picture on the front cover. This sounds like a truly fascinating story!! I’m marking it on my Goodreads! Thanks for such an excellent review of this title!

  10. Beth F says:

    I read both her books before I started blogging. I loved this one — there was so much to think about. Her parents were really something.

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