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 dangerous fanaticism. An illicit attraction to his host’s lonely wife soon threatens both of their worlds. But when a deadly drought descends it brings an irrevocable choice: should he take matters into his own hands? Or let fate run its course? His decision has life-changing consequences for them all.
Claire Hajaj has spent her life building bridges between two worlds, sharing both Palestinian and Jewish heritage. Her childhood was split between the deserts of the Middle East and the gardens of rural England. She has lived on four continents and worked for the United Nations in war zones from Burma to Baghdad. A former journalist for the BBC World Service, Claire’s writing has also appeared in Time Out London and the London Literary Review, as well as political institutions dedicated to peace. She has an M.A. in Classical and English Literature from Oxford University.
'It is a potent reminder of the fragility of solutions developed without context.'
– Booklist Online
‘Hajaj offers a…hopeful vision of how people from different worlds can find common ground.’
– Jewish Chronicle
‘Claire Hajaj follows her Middle Eastern-set debut, Ishmael’s Oranges, with the engrossing story of Nick, an architect who, after the sudden death of his father, leaves his fiancée in London to help build a children’s hospital in an unspecified village in the Sahara…inspired by the dilemmas she faced as an aid worker for the UN…it engages as a parable of a Westerner who, trying to do the right thing, finds that perhaps there is no right thing to be done.’
– Daily Mail
‘Claire Hajaj writes with compassion and insight and her characters are rounded and believable... The Water Thief amply fulfils the promise of her debut novel and confirms that here is a writer who can invoke passion and intellect with equal and satisfying facility.’
– New Internationalist
‘I finished The Water Thief with tears in my eyes. It’s the story of so many Westerners who find meaning and purpose working in developing countries; who fall in love with a place and its people; who try so hard to make things better; and whose efforts can have tragic, unintended consequences.’
– Emma Sky, author of The Unravelling
‘A deceptively simple story that addresses many of the problems facing western African nations…drought, corruption, politics, questionable charitable interventions…and wraps it all in a very human story of love and loss.’
‘An unpredictable and compelling work that will generate many conversations.’
– Library Journal
‘This book completely tore my heart open and made me take a hard look at my own life... The characters in this book will long live in my heart and memory. This has to be one of the most thought-provoking, soul searching books I’ve ever read...exquisitely written, intense and profound.’
– Marjorie’s World of Books
‘Claire Hajaj [tells her story] with intensity and a deep sensitivity towards people, and all their strengths and shortcomings.’
– Katharina Wantoch, emotion
‘A profound Africa adventure.’
‘The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj improves the world.’