Oil on Water by Helon Habila
A Novel

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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

Unrated Critic Reviews for Oil on Water

Kirkus Reviews

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The quest to find Isabel Floode, the kidnapped wife of a white petroleum engineer, lures journalist Rufus and his older colleague Zaq out of Port Harcourt into the liquid landscape of the Niger delta, where beauty and subsistence have fallen victim to ecological nightmare and the violent clash be...

May 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

The Guardian

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A huge chasm exists between Nigeria's multibillion dollar oil revenue and the standard of living for most Nigerians, the majority of whom are dirt-poor.

Sep 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

The Guardian

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Oil on Water follows two journalists – keen, young Rufus and ageing, cynical Zaq – as they pursue the kidnapped European wife of an oil executive into the badlands of the Niger delta.

Aug 29 2010 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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In Habila's stirring third novel (after Measuring Time), a pair of Nigerian reporters are dispatched to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil executive.

Mar 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

The Telegraph

As the toll of damage caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to be assessed, Helon Habila’s latest novel, Oil on Water, is both timely and compelling.

Oct 31 2010 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

The Bookbag

Summary: This novel's central theme is the kidnapping of a British woman by Nigerian 'militants.' Rookie reporter Rufus appears to have the scoop of his life -but can he handle it?

Jul 23 2010 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

Scotsman.com

and there are certainly one or two beautifully atmospheric passages here that give a real flavour of what life in the Niger Delta must be like, with oil flares lighting up the night sky and a thick layer of oil smothering the water the local people rely on for their livelihoods.

Aug 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Evoking the rich and beautiful yet fragile environment of the Delta, that is slowly being devastated by the greed for oil and money, Habila gently guides his different narrative strands into a poignant story that is profoundly personal even where these raise broader political and societal concerns.

May 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

Chamber Four

Just two weeks ago, I was very much looking forward to Helon Habila’s new book, described as “a Conradian river journey” about two journalists who travel into the dangerous Niger Delta, where the vicious oil industry has ruined the countryside and the native people.

Jun 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

Artswrap

In a cruel twist of fate, Rufus finds himself taking on Zaq's role much more literally than he ever anticipated, and in the midst of a seemingly endless, harrowing war, he learns that truth can often be a bitter pill to swallow...

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APOOO Bookclub

By Beverly Jackson • Aug 29th, 2011 • Category: Book Review 2011 • Email This Post • Print This Post Oil on Water is the masterful third novel by Helon Habila, and once again the author tackles another timely topic, this time the deadly politics of oil in the Niger Delta.

Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Oil on Water: A Novel

Reader Rating for Oil on Water
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