Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller - review by Lyndall Gordon

Lyndall Gordon

In & Out of Africa

Leaving Before the Rains Come


Harvill Secker 260pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘Do you consider yourself African?’ a reader asks Alexandra Fuller at a literary event in Dallas. It’s a question she expects and, given her migration from Zambia to Wyoming, she obliges with the expected answer. ‘Not any more. Not especially,’ she replies.

Yet body and spirit resist adaptation to a country and to an American husband, both of which have yielded to the soulless rule of corporate management. Fuller’s health caves in, and then, after six months in bed, she hunts for interviews with her parents which she’d taped, in the hope that her three American-born children could be persuaded to plunge with her into the country of her past. No luck. Children live in the present. All the same, the tapes turn her back to the African self she has tried to leave behind.

The very movement of the memoir is this back-stitching. It carries Fuller in reverse: into recollections of after-rain smells, sudden nightfalls that seem like a curtain drawn across the sky, and Fuller’s parents, cavorting with verbal panache and pressing on regardless. The memoir has hardly moved forward before it turns

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