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Oil on Water (2010)

de Helon Habila

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17315122,505 (3.81)81
From the desks of Nigeria's newsrooms, two journalists are recruited to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil engineer. Zaq, an infamous media hack, knows what's in store, but Rufus, a keen young journalist eager to get himself noticed, has no idea what he's let himself in for.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
A very interesting fictional story, if one filters it on the real background Nigeria's oil industry. Habila tells the story of an abducted Englishwoman who is the wife of an oil manager. Two Nigerian reporters are acting as intermediaries in search of her and the abductors. But soon it becomes clear that the abduction is only the hanger of this story. Rather, it is about the people who are driven out by the oil majors with false promises. Whole villages sell their land to these companies, shortly after the drilling begins, the fish die in the water because the quality of the pipes is miserable. Thus the food of the population is withdrawn and they have to look for a new place. However, this is becoming more and more difficult since the contamination spreads with the expansion of the drilling sites. In addition, rebels are at work, who want to fight the oil industry on the one hand, in order to help the population, on the other hand partly no longer know why they are fighting.
This story is very profound and gives much thought. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  Ameise1 | Apr 2, 2017 |
This author has a wonderful talent in making scenes vivid and real. In the Niger Delta region, where oil drilling has devastating effects on the land, the waters, and the tribal peoples living peacefully for generations before the oil, life is fragile. Militants wishing to preserve their way and life and their lands resort to violence and blowing up oil equipment. Soldiers are tasked with stopping them, often with more violence. The people of Nigeria try to live normal lives, some in the city of Port Harcourt, others in the forests along rivers. Serene islands dot the rivers -- oases where some live in peace until violence arrives.

After an oil executive's wife goes missing, 5 reporters are dispatched from Port Harcourt to find her and speak with the head of the most well-known militant group, believed to be holding the woman. This militant leader is known for not harming reporters and welcoming press regarding his cause. The assignment weaves the lives of two reporters together, old and young. Their quest turns into high adventure and, like the river, surprises lie unseen around every bend.

This is not only a good story, it's about true events still happening in this part of the world, so it's educational and eye-opening. The book would make a wonderful adventure movie. It has every element to make a successful movie.

The story is told in sections that don't always follow chronologically. The flashbacks are very effective and I liked those. I think the story would be better served if most of it were told in a more straightforward manner, with shorter flashbacks. I found it slightly confusing at some points where new scenes out of sequence started but then was able to discern where in the story the current scene was. We never learn what happened to the other 3 reporters. That happens in life, but in this case, it's disconcerting.

The reader is never told what illness Zaq has. I wanted to ask, is this because there are so many illnesses in that region with these symptoms it may never be known or it is because the author thought it didn't matter? Even alluding to the fact that the illness wasn't diagnosed would be better than no curiosity about it at all, but then, maybe that's an American way of looking at things. Perhaps the author's way of handling it is just how it would be handled in the delta region. These observations don't make the story less powerful.

Much of what happened was so realistic -- the misconceptions, deceptions, disillusionment, fear, sorrow, caring, interactions, ambitions and more. This is a story of our time; if you know little about this part of the world, you should read this.

I'd lke to add that I think the reader confusion was purposeful to mirror the labyrinthine course of the river delta area and perhaps also the confusion of events in the story. The book begins by alluding to fog and confusion in an artful way, however confusion that causes the reader to backtrack, trying to understand where things fit in may not be such a good thing. It's an intriguing thought process on the part of the author, though. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Thank you for the gift of this book, which I received as a Goodreads giveaway. Habila's writing is careful and sparse, balancing each thread of the story. There is nothing extra in this book, and Habila's attention to detail creates haunting images and characters. However, because of the spare language I found it difficult to follow at times, it requires patience to link the episodes together. It is not an easy book to read, Habila's writing will carry you along to a certain extent but also demands that you work with him to appreciate the whole picture. Habila struck an impressive balance between describing some of the more universal difficulties experienced by all developing nations and presenting a more unique and nuanced portrait of Nigeria's specific challenges. An obviously promising author, I look forward to reading his voice as it continues to mature. ( )
  booksandblintzes | Jun 7, 2016 |
The opening chapter describes a harrowing river journey that immediately brings to mind Heart of Darkness. It is not the same story, but the physical surroundings, the fog, the fearful emotional atmosphere...I'm thinking, "Mistah Kurtz, he dead." It was a strong powerful chapter.
The story is of an ambitious Nigerian reporter who is trying to find the kidnapped wife of an expatriate European oil executive. Nothing is as it seems, and the plot moves slowly, somewhat weighed down by the earnestness of the narrator. There are a number of potentially fascinating characters, but they lack definition; they all tend to sound the same. Much of the prose is irrelevant and plodding: "She was pretty and clever and the sex was good, but I didn't see myself spending the rest of my life with her."
Greed is destroying the society and environment of Nigeria -- the greed of the oil industry, the greed of the world that demands the oil, and the greed of the Nigerians. But the ones with the most money wield the power, so the Nigerians are suffering for that. The story was a way to highlight the inequities and cruelties. I liked that this is a book written by a Nigerian, with Nigerian protagonists. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Most striking is the toll our need for oil imposes on poor people subjected to the oil company's ruthless needs. But this book also is about a young man's admiration for an older reporter. ( )
  carlitabay | Sep 4, 2015 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
The narrative oscillates between past and present, tracking the two journalists' assignment in the delta as well as digressing into their respective pasts, but the 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. Animals lie decomposing, drowned in oil, the poisoned river water is "foul and sulphurous", abandoned villages have an "indefinable sadness in the air, as if a community of ghosts were suspended above the punctured zinc roofs", and always in the distance, in the darkness, are the burning flames of the toxic gas flares that many villages crave because of the short-lived prosperity they bring.
 
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From the desks of Nigeria's newsrooms, two journalists are recruited to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil engineer. Zaq, an infamous media hack, knows what's in store, but Rufus, a keen young journalist eager to get himself noticed, has no idea what he's let himself in for.

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