Oil on Water by Helon Habila
A Novel

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The chopped-up time-scheme gives the story the air of a feverish dream, as does the way Habila subtly creates doubles for many of the characters. But most unsettling is the ending. A cause for optimism or a cry of despair? It repays close re-reading.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

“The new generation of twenty-first-century African writers have now come of age. Without a doubt Habila is one of the best.”—Emmanuel Dongala

In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, the wife of a British oil executive has been kidnapped. Two journalists—a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq—are sent to find her. In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, Oil on Water explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences.



As Rufus and Zaq navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, in search of “the white woman,” they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the “truth” about the woman’s disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.
 

About Helon Habila

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Helon Habila is the internationally renowned author of Waiting for an Angel, which won both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Caine Prize for African Writing, and Measuring Time and Oil on Water. He was born in Nigeria and now divides his time between America and Nigeria.
 
Published May 16, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 251 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Adrian Turpin on Sep 06 2010

The chopped-up time-scheme gives the story the air of a feverish dream, as does the way Habila subtly creates doubles for many of the characters. But most unsettling is the ending. A cause for optimism or a cry of despair? It repays close re-reading.

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