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The Water Man's Daughter

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  182 ratings  ·  41 reviews
An accomplished, hard-hitting debut novel that marries a page-turning plot with the stories of three women, each of whom is struggling with decisions that will change the course of her life.

The violent death of a Canadian water company executive in a black township of Johannesburg throws together a South African anti-privatization activist and the water executive's daughte
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Emblem (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 388)
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Jennifer D
sigh - the dreaded 3-star rating. the book was good-ish. good enough. i certainly appreciated the light ruby-sachs shed on the issue of water privatization in south africa and the struggles faced by so many. i was quite interested in the characters ruby-sachs created, but they - and the writing - felt stilted, or somehow not fully formed. as a debut, it's impressive enough to make me interested in further fiction from ruby-sachs and, in fact, the ending is left with the potential for certain cha ...more
Aug 19, 2011 Alexis rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Two and a half stars. Very, very mixed feelings about this book. It was so promising when it started out, and then it disintegrated over time.

What I loved about this book was its concept and setting. It was set in the South African townships and the major characters were all women. One of the main characters is an anti-water privatization activist named Nomsulwa. Another is a police chief named Zembe. The third is the water man's daughter, a Canadian named Claire Matthews.

Claire's father, a wate
Friederike Knabe
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 differin ...more
Shonna Froebel
This first novel by Ruby-Sachs is set in the townships of Johnnesburg, South Africa. A company is installing water pipes in the township, working with the government. It sounds straightforwardly as a good thing, but there are many underlying issues here relating to wealth, water rights, public health, and the gangs that arise in poverty-stricken areas.
Peter Matthews is an executive with the water company. He is from Canada, and when he goes out with a group of local politicians, something happen
South Africa is a country that has seen tremendous changes over the past 20 years since the end of Apartheid. Building the new “rainbow society” has been very challenging, problems of violence and economic hardship persist. Definitely a place that can be an inspiration for many stories to be told.

The story of “The Water Man’s Daughter” has indeed a lot of potential. The plot is promising, the range of characters very interesting.

I like that most characters have shades of grey and aren’t easy t
This debut novel by Emma Ruby-Sachs has much in common with the classic police procedural but manages to push the boundaries of this well-worn genre. Set in Johannesburg and surrounding townships, the story involves three women with different and often conflicting missions. Peter Matthews works for a company that is modernizing the water distribution infrastructure in the townships. However the project has met with opposition and open resistance from locals because once the new system is in plac ...more
Very interesting book. Largely it was a crime drama but allowed interesting insights into privitation of life essentials. Always two or more sides to each story/decision. And then there is the justice!! Very different outlook. Wonder if that is how things work in our world, too.
In some ways, I'm not sure how I feel about this story. It kind of left me hanging at the end; some resolution, but many matters unsatisfied. At its simplest, it's the story of a murder, a Canadian businessman in South Africa trying to establish a water system is found murdered. His daughter comes to South Africa to find out about the murder, to connect with his ghost. She is linked with an African woman, involved in the fight for water rights; there stories intermingle, along with that of Zembe ...more
I wanted to like this book. The idea and setting are interesting and I am happy to support a young Canadian author. However it didn't really work for me. The writing was not very engaging and I wasn't convinced that this was what it would feel like to live and work as a black South African woman. It was curious that we don't really see things from the point of view of the waterman's daughter -- a point of view that would have been interesting that Ruby-Sachs might have been in a good position to ...more
The beginning of the book was great. It gave a lot of interesting background information about water privatization in South Africa, and introduced some multi-faceted characters. It kinda fell apart at the end though. The ending was interesting, but there was no build-up, suspense, or foreshadowing. It was just done, no explanation or motivation explored. Like the author had a page limit, and about halfway through the story she discovered she only had 2 pages left so just abandoned the plot and e ...more
An easy read overall, and decent writing. The plot frequently falls into cliches though, and a good portion of the dialogues are not very plausible in my opinion. The racial tensions that form the background play out a bit too obviously and tamely - the black man/woman is always the victim, and either out of goodwill or fear (at the end, it doesn't really matter which) they never speak up to the white man/woman, unless, in an accidental burst of savagery, they kill the white man. A little too sa ...more
I read this one quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it! I would give it 'a page turner' rating which I don't do unless it's completely deserving, in my humble opinion that is. My eyes were certainly opened regarding the water dilemmas faced by the territories in South Africa. This was the author's first book, it was well researched and I anxiously await her next one. Kudos to this Canadian author. Although I gave it a 4 star, 3.8 would be more accurate.
I thought that this book started out with so much potential, but ultimately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. It was well written, but the ending was really disappointing! It was very anticlimactic and almost too predictable. I also felt that the author could have developed Claire's character a little more. Her part was so small that it made me question the author's decision to include her in the story.

An exploration of the politics of development that I thought was excellent at first but, well, the way Ruby-sachs ended it was kind of sloppy. or rather too neat.
Her characterization of the 'water man's daughter' was lacking something, though her other two main characters and the short segment that is written from the perspective of Peter Matthews are excellent.
I have waited a long time to read this and I enjoyed it. The mystery is interesting and there are three good women characters in it. It is set in South Africa and so there is an vibe to the tone of the book. Actually, the Watermans daughter is the least interesting of the three woman, but she is the catalyst for how the other two interact so it is a bit different.
Feb 27, 2012 Alida rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ebook
I picked this book out of ones that were available in ebook form our local public library. Goodreads was very helpful in selecting which books I would take on our holiday.

The Water Man's Daughter is a mystery set in Soweto, a South African township. The struggle for access to free clean drinking water is the catalyst for much of what happens.
Insight into post-Aparthied S Africa interesting. Slow reveal made it a bit hard to understand the water management problem at the heart of the story. Some character interactions not well developed. Would likely make a good movie... needs some fleshing out of some parts of the story that a visual presentation would solve.
Firstly I would like to say thank you to Goodreads and Jessica at McClelland books for providing me with a ARC in a giveaway.

I really wanted to like this book and I found the actual storyline very interesting. However I didn't feel that I connected to any of the characters which left me feeling 'meh' by the end.
Absolutely amazing book. Politically charged, yet it doesn't lecture or pontificate. What I really liked was how Ruby-Sachs walked us through the controversial activities of the Canadian water companies in South Africa, letting us as reader get enraged. She didn't tell us how to feel, she just let us feel.
This book offers very good insight to the water privatization issues in South Africa it also gives a good account of the other prevailing social divisions in post apartheid South Africa. The story is told from a community perspective a down up approach that I greatly appreciated.
I had high hopes for this book, but it did not live up to my expectations. It was only an okay read. I think it COULD have been a great read, but the author didn't develop the characters, the story. ughh. Glad it's finished. On to the next book on my list. . .
I heard an interview with the author and it piqued my interest. Definitely an interesting read, especially a window on the politics of water in Africa, but the 'mystery' plot didn't work as well for me, not as shocking a seemed to be intended.
Really enjoyed this book set in South Africa. The interaction of the 3 characters gave different points of view and I suspect a more real view of South Africa today. An easy engaging read!
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, but several characters--most notably Claire and Mira--were left so sketchy and underdeveloped that I found it hard to sympathize with Nomsulwa's devotion to each.
it was hard to appreciate because I read it so soon after Cutting for Stone. Definitely a good attempt at a first novel. Lacked depth of character, and felt a little safe,
A mysterious murder with a surprise ending. Claire's character was overshadowed by Nomsulwa's when I felt she could have been a stronger female character as well.
moderately good. describes beautifully the landscape that backs the story, but the writing and plot are relatively average. totally readable/enjoyable, though.
Slow to start and boring to read at times, but two really interesting characters who are female role models. Good look into to S. Africa.
Help me understand so much more about current life for poor S. Africans. Look forward to more from Emma Ruby-Sachs!
I liked the story felt some of plot was not flushed out enough to identify deeply with the chacters
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Emma Ruby-Sachs is a lawyer and writer. She studied law at the University of Toronto and the University of Chicago and currently works as a consultant for and writes for The Huffington Post. She lives in Brooklyn.
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