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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All Reviews

Critic Reviews (7)

7.1
Weighted Avg. Adjusted by the addition of a statistical value.
Critic Score Distribution
Highest score:
Lowest score:
Average score:
9.0
7.0
8.0
  1. Positive: 7 Out of 7
  1. Mixed: 0 Out of 7
  1. Negative: 0 Out of 7
Critical Consensus: Generally favorable.
2

The Independent

03 Feb 2017
7.0
This masterly third novel by Helon Habila, a former winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book from the Africa Region, draws on the tradition of the classic detective novel but also operate ...
2

The Book Bag

03 Feb 2017
8.0
The book opens with two local journalists on a rather dangerous trip. Zaq, old-timer and cynic but still has the skills to seek out a good story and apprentice Rufus. A British oil engineer’s wife has gone missing, believed kidnapped and the tw ...
2

BellaNaija

02 Feb 2017
9.0
Prior to reading ‘Oil on Water’, Helon Habila had stolen my heart with his novel ‘Measuring Time’ (a review of this would be done later). Oil on Water was indeed worth the anticipation. Helon Habila is a fantastic writer and this book reitera ...
1

Telegraph

02 Feb 2017
8.0
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. For what happened in the Gulf has been happening in the Niger Delta for years, a ...
1

The Guardian

02 Feb 2017
8.0
The brutal mechanics of our lust for oil, as Hollywood thrillers from The Pelican Brief to Syriana prove, lend themselves to tales of heroic underdogs unmasking the machinations of big petrobusiness. Helon Habila’s new novel turns these certain ...
2

Africa Book Club

02 Feb 2017
8.0
Rufus, a young journalist on his first major assignment, travels into the troubled oil-rich Nigerian Delta, hoping to land his breakthrough news story: interviewing the kidnappers of a British oil engineer’s wife and proving that the captive is ali ...

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SIMILAR Books

Publish Date:

May 16th, 2011

Publisher:

W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN:

978-0-393-33964-2

Language:

English

Literary Awards:

Orion Book Award Nominee (2012), PEN Open Book Award Nominee (2012)

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