Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
Ten years after publishing Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller returns to her childhood in Africa, this time making her tragic, larger-than-life mother Nicola the centerpiece of the story. The memoir focuses on both of her parents' upbringings as well as her own, set against the backdrop of a waning British Empire.
Reviewer: Ian Thomson
"In pages of vivid prose, Cocktail Hour evokes an Africa of lost imperial glories, when lives were organised and given meaning by the Union Jack....This is a life-affirming and altogether lovely book."
Reviewer: David Robson
"What a funny, harrowing, ultimately redemptive, book this is. It starts out in Nancy Mitford vein, plumbs Sophoclean depths of tragedy, then guides its readers back to peace and sanity. There will be no more compelling memoir published this year."
Reviewer: Michiko Kakutani
"Writing in shimmering, musical prose, Ms. Fuller creates portraits of her mother, father and various eccentric relatives that are as indelible and resonant as the family portraits in classic contemporary memoirs like Mary Karr’s “Liars’ Club” and Andre Aciman’s “Out of Egypt.”"
Reviewer: Binka Le Breton
"Alexandra (Bobo) Fuller treats us in this wonderful book to the inside scoop on her glamorous, tragic, indomitable mother...Bobo skillfully weaves together the story of her romantic, doomed family against the background of her mother’s remembered childhood “filled with magical people”..."
Reviewer: Dominique Browning
"“Cocktail Hour” is disturbing in places, funny in others. It pulses with life and love. Nicola’s voice threatens to drown out everyone else’s, but fortunately she’s hilarious, creative, opinionated, ribald and tragic."
Reviewer: Frances Wilson
"Nicola Fuller, the last of her kind, booms and bosses her way through these beautifully written pages, a comic-tragic patriot of no clear nationality, permanently out of place in the place she refuses to leave, at home in her own homelessness."
Reviewer: Malcolm Jones
"Fuller casts the narrative as a joint biography of her parents—how they wound up in Africa, the countries they lived in, how they got on—but the loveliest part is the generous way she steps back and lets them tell the story."
Reviewer: Martin Rubin
"Ms. Fuller revisits her childhood, focusing more on her parents' experience than her own. Along the way she conveys the magnetic pull that Africa could exert on the colonials who had a taste for it, the powerful feeling of attachment."
Reviewer: Susan Salter Reynolds
"In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Fuller pushes her mother a little harder, trying to get at the source of all that hilarious instability. She discovers strange memories from her mother’s childhood in Scotland and Africa."
Reviewer: Katie Engelhart
"Fuller’s charm lies in her weaving of family lore and African history....If Fuller can be faulted, it is for overly romanticised history lessons."
Reviewer: Rachel Pulfer
"Cocktail Hour occasionally reads as more self-indulgent than insightful, particularly in the first half. That said, Fuller is a memoirist, not a historian, and what is achieved here is a vivid, fast-paced sketch of the twilight of Empire, animated by a cast of deeply compelling characters."