If you’re interested in a book about growing up in squalid conditions in several Third World countries, this is your book.
I’ve come to understand that I am not a fan of the memoir style/genre. It allows an author to pick and choose various parts of her life to be revealed. Context is lost.
Having said that, I found this book to be depressing from the first page. If I hadn’t been assigned to read it as part of the Guy’s Book Club I would have passed it by after the second chapter. However, I did read it…beginning to end.
For reasons unclear until near the end of the book, an English family is plopped down in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) to farm and otherwise eke out a miserable existence of survival among disease and poverty.
The author’s mother is a hopeless alcoholic who barely draws a single sober breath and the father seems to be an indifferent to the family’s circumstances while he chain smokes through life. Of course, Alexandra Fuller (aka Bobo) doesn’t see it this way. No. This is all she knows so it’s just all great fun for her.
Being white in colonial Rhodesia does have it’s perks with several servants and the like. That comes to an end after a decade long war (just part of the scenery) and the Fullers move on to another part of Africa.
All in all, growing up in the backwater of several African countries just seems to be one big adventure after another. Even personal tragedies like the death of a young (toddler age) sister and the still born death of brother seem to be taken in stride and woven into the tapestry of a larger African diaspora. This is just the way it is. Sad for awhile but soon the next horrific challenge presents itself.
The book does have a quasi happy ending and, of course, the author looks back on this childhood as something wonderful and precious.
Luckily, the reading went quickly with nice short chapters and a writing style to encourages an easy read. The subject matter is quite depressing, though.