reviewed by Frances Churchward.
This book gives a factual account by Aleaxandra Fuller of her life growing up in southern Africa. At the start of the story, Alexandra has flown from Wyoming, where she has lived since 1994, to Budapest in order to be at the bedside of her father who is dying. Her mother and father had flown to Budapest for a holiday where he became ill with pneumonia and was admitted to hospital for his final 12 days. Alexandra is at the hospital with her father for most of the time alongside her mother. After her father’s death, Fuller returns with her mother to Zambia, where her parents had a farm, and stays with her mother to help her get her affairs in order. She then relates the history of her parents’ life along with her own and that of her sister, Vanessa who also lives in Zambia.
Fuller’s father was a product of the British boarding school system but, at an early age, left England. After spending some time travelling and doing casual work, he takes a job on a farm in Kenya where he soon meets Fuller’s mother who is a resident of the country. The couple marry and begin their life of farming together, producing five children but the only two to survive are Vanessa and Alexandra. It is evident that the couple lived a very full life and moved about a lot. Her father appears to have had a ‘devil may care’ attitude to life. Fuller says of her father that he moved on and never looked back.
This book is a celebration of Fuller’s parents life and her own life along with it. It is clear that the family led an unconventional life during which they had to deal with living in war torn countries and other hazardous conditions. Recounting the story of her life on farms in southern Africa, the reader learns much on the way of the difficulties with which such a life is filled and we come to realise the extent to which resilience plays an essential part in survival.
As this book begins with the death of her father and the retelling of her life alongside Fuller’s grieving process the reader could, perhaps, be expecting the book to have a sad quality to it. In fact, mostly, the opposite is true. Fuller writes with great wit and humour about her life with her parents and, through her anecdotes, we receive a real flavour of the times. Eventually, Fuller returns to her life in Wyoming where the reader receives a potted history of her life there. Throughout the book, the reader is invited to view Fuller’s life from her viewpoint and one is therefore drawn into her life alongside her as she recounts her story. This is a gentle, enjoyable and easy to read book which can be put down and picked up again at any point without losing the flavour.
Published by Serpent’s Tail. Available from good bookshops, including October Books in Portswood, Southampton.