Like a River Glorious - Reviews

It is gratifying, even humbling, for an author to receive Unsolicited positive reactions and reviews have come pouring in from readers in nine countries ranging across Australasia, North and South America, United Kingdom, Africa and Puerto Rico.

Some are quoted here and followed by a  Review undertaken by the Brethren Historical Society:

“What an amazing heritage! We will place this book in our library and make it known as best we can.”
Review by the Bible College of Victoria (Incorporating Melbourne Bible Institute) Australia.

“The book will appeal to any reader with an interest in the social history of Africa at the time.”
Book Review in Boardroom May 2004, Journal of The Southern African Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, Johannesburg South Africa.

“Returning home in bitterly cold weather and intending to read the newspaper or do the crosswords as usual, I found the book had been delivered. Opening it for a cursory browse I found myself being swept along in a non-stop current of page-turning. It was not until 1.00 am that I decided to go to bed my mind full of the experiences and characters of the book. Next morning I hurriedly completed the household chores and settled down again to read. I laughed often and cried for many reasons. The end came too soon.”
Patricia Nolan, Edenvale, South Africa.

Waiting to enter the theatre for an op, I read 173 pages and completed it two nights later. This is a first - I seldom read. It was captivating. You have done a fantastic job in honouring your Mom and some of the lighter moments had me laughing out loud - I am sure the rest of the guys in my ward thought I was nuts.”
Ian Corder, W. Cape, South Africa.

“My mother devoured the book in one day and was left panting for more. She called me up from Lusaka: ‘When is the movie coming out? Is there a sequel to the book?’ Everyone loves your book Gavin.”
Dowa Ross (born at Balovale, Zambia), Beverly Hills, USA.

“Like a River Glorious was my companion for several weeks as I followed with great interest the trials and triumphs. You reflected the changing moods of the Zambezi so graphically. The work is informative, inspiring and often very humorous.”

Antoinette Alexander, Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Enjoyed reading it immensely. It is very well written.”
David and Ruth Ann Logan, Red Lion, PA, USA.

“Much enjoyed your book.”
A. M. Kittermaster, Surrey, UK.

“It soon went to the top of my reading pile!”
Joan Hoyt, UK.


Other responses:

“What an amazing account of an amazing woman trusting an amazing God.” Jill Lester

“Your book held me enthralled.” Margaret Rundle

“It is very special. You described the beauty of the land and river very well. It is witty and the occasional socio/political comment adds to the whole package.” Hilton Barnett

“I found it so exciting and interesting.” June Prest

“It was such an inspiration to me; so well written and gripping.” Noel Stoffberg.

Review by the Brethren Historical Society:

Like a river glorious

Gavin Barnett

Helderberg, South Africa, Third edition: 2008

263 pp.                ISBN 0-620-32098-2 £17.97

‘Life was a constant adventure’, and Gavin Barnett sets out to share all the amusing, joyful, challenging and dramatic aspects of this adventure with his audience. The book is written as a biography of his mother, Dorothy Barnett, whose time of service as a Brethren missionary in Chavuma, North-West Zambia, from 1930-43 forms the centrepiece of the account. Relying on his childhood memories, complemented by additional research, Barnett portrays his mother as a decidedly strong-willed individual making sense of a trying environment to the best of her abilities. A witty and insightful account is sketched of everyday life on a mission outpost during the colonial period. All this is staged against the backdrop of the Zambezi River, along which Chavuma mission is located, and metaphors of the river —its rapids, cataracts and beauty—figure prominently throughout the work, symbolising the attachment of the Barnett family to their Central African surroundings. Yet equal reference is made to the numerous difficulties which the family faced, the apex undoubtedly being the drowning of Fred Barnett, father and husband, in the same Zambezi River.

Chavuma is part of an area affectionately referred to as ‘the Beloved Strip’ by the Brethren. Because this area has enjoyed exceptional amounts of missionary activity since the pioneering days of Frederick Stanley Arnot at the end of the nineteenth century,5 a concomitantly large amount of memoirs and books about this part of Central Africa has been published. Famous accounts by Dan Crawford, Dugald Campbell, Elsie Burr and recently Robert Muir, for example, recount in rich detail the intricacies of missionary life.6

5. Frederick Stanley Arnot, Garenganze or seven years’ pioneer mission work in Central Africa (1889); idem, Missionary travels in Central Africa (1914).

6 See: Dan Crawford, Thinking black: 22 years without a break in the long grass of Central Africa (1912); idem, Back to the long grass: My link with Livingstone (1923); Dugald Campbell, In the heart of Bantuland (1922); idem, Wanderings in Central Africa: The experiences & adventures of a lifetime of pioneering &

Barnett’s book fits into this tradition, recollecting in an anecdotal manner encounters with wild animals, insects, other missionaries, and most importantly, the numerous individuals living in the surroundings of the mission station. His chief merit is that he succeeds in portraying the missionary family as deeply human. Insecurities, jealousies and flaws are recounted side by side with witty incidents and illustrations of the remarkable ability at overcoming adversity. A diversity of topics, ranging from education at Sakeji (a school for missionary children) and experiences whilst travelling through the bush, to more sensitive topics, including Barnett’s own insecurities about the missionary calling, are aptly tied together into one compelling narrative.

However, Barnett’s focus on anecdotal recollections occasionally leads the main argument to go astray, as he jumps from one observation to another with each new paragraph. More seriously, whereas in his introductory pages he does explain the use of terms such as ‘native’ or ‘black’, in the following exposé he sometimes applies unnecessary and even pejorative value judgements to situations as well as people he interacted with. All in all, nevertheless, this book offers an illustrative insight into daily missionary life in a colonial outpost, complementing existing works and offering a vivid and detailed account of mundane challenges and achievements. This is a good read for all those who appreciate the description of quotidian affairs, written down in a way which is intelligible and meaningful even in a cross-cultural context.

Iva Peša