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Dan

Leaving Before the Rains Come

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I was really surprised that there were no existing threads for any of Alexandra Fuller's books. I have now read all four of her African memoirs and would highly recommend each and every one of them.

Her latest is 'Leaving Before the Rains Come'. Much of it is still set in Africa, but, since it concerns itself primarily with the disintegration of her marriage, most of which was lived in Wyoming in the U.S., a goodly portion of the book, and its attendant commentary, takes place in the States.

At first I didn't like it as well as her previous books. It seemed too polished. But within 30 or so pages I realized that what I was witnessing wasn't too much polish but the evolution of a very good writer into a great one! I really don't want to go into too much detail for fear my natural inclination to hyperbole might put off a potential reader. So I will suffice it to say that this book is insightful, funny, clever, interesting, emotionally wrenching, and deeply honest. And I would stack the writing itself, and the pacing and the structure, up against anyone I've ever read. I think everyone should read all of her books, but you do not need to have read any of her other work to be able to appreciate this book. 5stars!!!

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... her African memoirs and would highly recommend each and every one of them.

 

Interesting review Dan. She seems to have captured your imagination right enough.

I haven't read anything by this author, even though they are mostly set in my part of the world. In truth, I find it very difficult to relate to novels depicting Central Africa, because they never seem to capture what I feel about the peoples, the customs, and particularly the environment (the exception being Doris Lessing, of course). They are are either too shallow, too inaccurate, or way over the top.

I would love to know how you visualise her interpretation of life in Zambia and neighbouring countries.

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As far as my views of Central Africa go it still seemed a harsh, dangerous, close to the bone existence was lived by most of the inhabitants, even in relatively modern times. But the people seemed friendly and helpful (more so than the average rural denizens here in the U.S.), the understandable and random petty thievery of impoverished peoples notwithstanding, except for the bandits and soldiers, which often seem one and the same.

The is an air of subtle menace which hangs over areas with large numbers of dangerous animals, deadly insect vectored diseases, and less than optimal medical facilities, and the areas Fuller describes have all three.

The general chaos is interesting to read about, but I think it would wear me out. There was very little security in anyone's life.

The cities didn't seem intrinsically worse than our cities, but I don't like cities in general.

Tropical climates fascinate the naturalist in me, but I don't think I'd want to live in one. I'm not a lover of heat. But it seems a lovely place during the cooler and dryer times. The flora and fauna were diverse, abundant and exotic,(although becoming less so by the minute) and the country itself awe inspiring.

I am not a fan of the memoir genre in general, because they usually seem to be written by people with a victim mentality, a lack of personal candor, and an axe to grind. But this book seemed very honest, balanced in its depiction of people, and non-judgemental. I never felt like Fuller was looking to place blame.

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Yesterday, I talked about this author with a publisher friend, and she immediately said what a good writer Fuller is. My friend - who like me as lived here for a very long time - enjoyed all of her books, so maybe I'll give her a try sometime - even though, like you, I am not a fan of the genre. Also, my friend is partial to female authors anyway, even though she was not aware of it until I mentioned it.

As to the "air of subtle menace", hmm. The "general chaos" you mention, and "little security", well that goes with the territory.

I hope someone else has read some of her books and will post reviews.

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