Claire Hajaj comes to the blog today with a story that is ultimately a tale of morality and power in the aftermath of colonialism – all set in an unnamed African country and narrated by Dominic Thorburn in
The Water Thief
Let’s be honest, it will be the characters and their choices that will ultimately make or break this book for each reader or listener, and unless one is looking for a ‘what could go wrong’ while on a humanitarian mission, the story follows struggles of time immemorial – power, haves versus have-nots, right versus wrong and the long-lasting effects of colonial rule and the subjugation of peoples believed to be ‘less than’. In this book, Nick is a thirty-something engineer living in London, pottering along as expected until the death of his father pushes him into a spate of self-examination. He decides that, even though newly engaged, he is drawn to put his skills to work in helping with a construction project in Africa.
Arriving in country, Nick is placed with a host family and finds that the project, much as he feared and was warned about, has been delayed and beset by many of the issues that thrive in the ‘developing’ world: low-skilled labor, corruption, lack of infrastructure, theft, overly ambitious plans and a general sense of ‘this is how it always is that provides a cushion (of sorts) that seems to soften the missteps and bring them a sense of ‘acceptable’. And, as Nick’s work becomes more problematic, his life in the host family home also becomes entangled with complications, some as a result of his presence, some due to the young son and his ever-increasing observations, and most due to a relationship struck with the woman of the house. I’m not sure that the affair actually was required, but the ‘expectations’ and Nick’s overly invested approach to the people and the dire situations found after drought and a water monopoly push him to a choice that, while morally correct, becomes one of those can two wrongs ever make a right situations.
Narration for this story is provided by Dominic Thorburn, a new to me narrator who presented the story in all of its permutations with care and clarity. The story mixes third person narration with flashes of the host family’s son’s input in first person – detailing his recognition of the situation both in his home and in his country as the story progresses. Beautiful prose that presents a rather spare overview of situations and considerations, with occasional flashes of color that add a presence and depth to a story that is already layered and mired in difficulties, questions and conundrums. There is a certain sense of ‘been here before’ in this book – as the tales of corruption, subjugation and wealthy using the power of ‘ownership’ to keep their position firmly planted on the necks and backs of those who have not. I’m not entirely sure what readers are meant to do with this new information – perhaps understand a bit more about the ‘polemic’ and ‘talking points’ of the haves – and then digging deeper to see upon just whom they are standing.
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 4
Title: The Water Thief
Author: Claire Hajaj
Genre: Friendship, Interracial, Literary Fiction, Multi-Cultural, Political commentary, Setting: Africa, Sociological Relevancy
Narrator: Dominic Thorburn
Published by: Oneworld Publications, Recorded Books
Published on: 6 September, 2018
Source: Recorded Books
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 26 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
How much would you risk to right a wrong? From the award-winning author of Ishmael’s Oranges comes a searing novel with a profound moral conflict at its heart.
When a heart attack kills his father, young architect Nick abandons his comfortable London life to volunteer abroad for a year – a last chance to prove himself, and atone for old sins.
But in a remote village on the edge of the Sahara, dangerous currents soon engulf him: a simmering family conflict, hidden violence and fanaticism, his host’s lonely wife hiding secrets of her own. Their attraction threatens both their worlds, blurring the line between right and wrong. And when a deadly drought descends it brings an irrevocable choice. With all their hopes at stake, should he take matters into his own hands? Or let fate run its course? His decision has life-changing consequences for them all.
A copy of this title was provided via Recorded Books for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: