Scatterlings of Africa by Peter Davies Literally Publishing Limited (2006) ISBN 9780955440908 Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (4/07)
The setting for this gritty, uncompromising book, written by Peter Davies, is Rhodesia in the 1970’s, shortly before becoming Zimbabwe in1980. It tells a story of a white officer in the war against the insurgents, Lieutenant Ron Cartwright. Ron is obsessed with catching – and killing – Comrade Gadziwa, a freedom fighter who wishes to restore the land to his people. While Ron is in the bush fighting, his wife Angela and their three young daughters are living in the town and visiting both sets of grandparents on their farms, enjoying a relatively safe and pleasant lifestyle. Ron and Angela have been drifting apart for a while already, mostly due to Ron’s desire to pursue the military career full-time, which leads to his apparent neglect of Angela and their family. When Angela’s cousin Mark reappears in her life, an unexpected romance blossoms, followed by a full-blown, steamy affair. Will Angela follow her heart or her mind? Will Ron catch Gadziwa? Is Mark serious?
Mr. Davies’ writing is terse and tense. He excels in descriptions of the fighting and related scenes. He does not shy away from brutal depictions of war and torture and those scenes come across as incredibly real. While I cannot say that I enjoyed those pages, since brutality does not tend to be high on my list of enjoyable pursuits, I have to say that I found them haunting and brilliant. I also enjoyed the little vignettes of life and people of Africa, interspersed with the rest of Mr. Davies’ writing. His love and knowledge of the land truly shine through in those scenes. The pages that left me slightly puzzled and upset were the ones dealing with Angela’s affair with Mark and especially the pages describing any kind of “lovemaking, ” be it those with Angela and Mark or a page of the brutal encounter between Angela and Ron.
After having read Peter Davies’ “Scatterlings of Africa, ” I had a distinct feeling that the author’s writing it was a real catharsis for him. The very personal view of the events in Rhodesia and the heartfelt depictions of the civil war must have been quite difficult to put on paper. I would recommend this book to people interested in this aspect of African history as well as those who enjoy hard-core warrior books.