Oil on Water: Book summary and reviews of Oil on Water by Helon Habila

Oil on Water

A Novel

by Helon Habila

Oil on Water by Helon Habila X
Oil on Water by Helon Habila
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  • Published May 2011
    256 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Stirring... it's a credit to Habila's storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity." - Publishers Weekly

"[W]hile Oil on Water lacks the level of historical and cultural background found in works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, readers will find much to appreciate here." - Library Journal

"Dreamy, criss-crossed with flashbacks and pipelines, a memorable if heavily delineated parable of the dispossessed." - Kirkus Reviews

"Habila is a skillful narrator and a master of structure." - The Telegraph (UK)

"[T]he most powerful and interesting character in the story proves to be the fetid, viscous, menacing landscape. Habila's prose perfectly evokes the devastation of the oil-polluted wetlands." - The Guardian (UK)

This information about Oil on Water was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Helon Habila Author Biography

Photo: Jide Alakija

Helon Habila is the author of the novels, Waiting for an Angel, Measuring Time, Oil on Water, and Travelers and a nonfiction book, The Chibok Girls. His writing has won numerous awards including the Caine Prize, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Windham-Campbell Prize. He is professor of creative writing at George Mason University and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.

Link to Helon Habila's Website

Name Pronunciation
Helon Habila: HEH-lohn Hab-ILH-uh. The first syllable of "Habila" is pronounced like the first syllable of "habit."

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