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The Water Man's Daughter Paperback – May 10 2011

11 customer reviews

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Paperback, May 10 2011
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Emblem Editions; 1st Edition edition (May 10 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771077971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771077975
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.1 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #193,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"[An] assured debut . . . beautifully tense . . . at heart a morality tale."
Toronto Star
"Ruby-Sachs brings her setting and its cast vibrantly to life: the parching heat, night-time chills, the dirt tracks and clinging Soweto dust, the families living in near-poverty yet touchingly house-proud, while their civic officials boast charmless mansions and giant plasma TVs. . . . [The final] 40 pages . . . gather up the story's themes and plot strands in ways completely unexpected, and exhilarating."
Globe and Mail
"Ruby-Sachs has set herself an impressive agenda for a first novel . . . most notably her ripped-from-the headlines plot, authentic setting, and lively dialogue sprinkled with Zulu words and phrases."
Edmonton Journal
"[An] impressive debut. . . . Plays like a classic whodunit, but its mystery involves how much we really know about others -- especially those people we think we know best."
Quill & Quire

About the Author

EMMA RUBY-SACHS's journalism has been published in The Nation and The Huffington Post. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Toronto law school, Ruby-Sachs lived in South Africa for periods in 2003 and 2004 while studying. She has worked as a civil litigator in Windsor and Toronto and currently works with Avaaz, a progressive online organization. Emma lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Janet B TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 26 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a Who Done It mystery which takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is the story of a Canadian, Peter Matthews who is CEO of a controversial water privatization project who after arriving in South Africa is murdered. His 21 year old daughter Claire comes to South Africa determined to find out what happened to her father. Zembe Afrika, a policewoman is in charge of the investigation and wants Claire out of her way. She pressures a young anti-privatization activist, Nomsulwato to be Claire's escort. Gradually both women find themselves drawn together in spite of their differences.

This book is very well written and holds your interest from beginning to end.
I enjoyed this book immensely and can highly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Righteous Fist on May 20 2011
Format: Paperback
This was the best book I've read in a long time, especially impressive given that Ms. Ruby-Sachs is apparently a first-time novelist. Compelling from the opening scene, peppered with insights into human nature, and thought-provoking on an important social issue I had not previously given much attention. Strongly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 11 2011
Format: Paperback
'Nomsulwa plays with bullets in the alleyway.' So opens Emma Ruby-Sachs's debut novel that depicts a violent South African legacy renewed with each generation. As Nomsulwa and her cousin, Mira, attempt to sabotage their township's recently privatized water distribution system, a supportive policewoman turns a blind eye and the mutilated body of a Canadian water company executive sparks a corrupt investigation.

When Claire, "the water man's daughter," arrives in grief to seek answers about her father's killing, Nomsulwa, as a return favour to the police, acts as a diversionary local host. And, with Mira and his gang among the murder suspects, plot lines develop and intersect. As Nomsulwa attempts to reconcile her disdain for corporate North America with her growing sympathy for Claire, the two women bond over the realities of loss and oppression.

Ruby-Sachs creates a vibrant setting and finely evokes most of her characters; parching heat, nightly chills, and lingering dust enhance the juxtaposition between house-proud families living poverty and civic officials in charmless mansions. Nomsulwa comes across as three-dimensional, proactive and relatable whereas, ironically, Claire emerges as the weakest character: confused, naive and flaky.

Despite lapses in realism, such as major oversights by Johannesburg's police homicide squad and extremely lax hotel security, "The Water Man's Daughter" ultimately ties together themes and plot lines in unexpected, exhilarating ways that manage to eschew complete redemption in favour of highlighting the human cost of systemic inequity.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Naghi on June 14 2011
Format: Paperback
Emma Ruby-Sachs' first novel jumped off the page for me. The characters were complex and interesting, yet believable and flawed. It was a novel but, like other reviewers have mentioned, brought in aspects of world politics that are not frequently discussed, and addressed gender politics in a fascinating way. But it was never too heavy or difficult to get through. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that pulls you in quickly and doesn't let go.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By TrainerK on May 19 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book because nothing about the characters or the plot was simplistic. I did not feel that as a reader I was being written down to. The book invited me to think on world politics, gender dynamics, class, human psychology and social interaction. I become completely invested and connected to all of the characters. The main women in the book were especially compelling - they were layered, complex and real. I highly recommend this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER on Jan. 21 2012
Format: Paperback
A dead man, his grieving daughter, a community activist leader, and a local police woman are at the centre of Emma Ruby-Sachs's ambitious debut novel. Sounds like a murder mystery? Well, it is that and quite a bit more. Set in Soweto, at a time when hopes of township dwellers for a better life are gradually being eroded, Emma Ruby-Sachs builds a colourful portrait of a community that finds itself in opposition to an international corporation; the story delves into the conflicts that the differing interests entail. The bone of contention is the new privately-run water supply system. On top of the other economic hardships faced by the local people, the installation of a new water distribution system will require everybody to buy any water usage above their limited personal allowance. While much more convenient and possibly safer, thanks to taps inside their small houses or compounds, the personal allowance is much too low for the families' needs. As traditionally responsible for the water in the family, the women's action is aimed at delaying the operation of the new system. Organized by the Phiri Community Foundation and led by twenty-six year old Nomsulwa they dig up the distribution pipes! A crisis erupts: the water company's respected water engineer is sent from Canada to Johannesburg to negotiate some sort of deal or compromise. Problem is: his counterparts are the local elders and power brokers, who demand ever more money to "keep their women under control". After only one day of meetings and a boozy night, Peter, known as "The Water Man" to the locals, is found dead, brutally murdered...While the investigation drags on, Claire, his daughter, arrives to find out what happened.

Ruby-Sachs's sympathies are with her South African characters: they are vividly and believably presented.
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