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Synopsis

First published in 1960, this is a tale of an imaginary island on the Equator that has suddenly achieved importance through the discovery of oil - what will happen to the men and women living under the tensions of life on this island?

At one end of this island is the oil refinery where the members of the staff live in constant proximity to one another, and where emotions are heightened by the lack of privacy. The men are goaded by ambitions for power, while the women are drawn into affairs of love and passion. At the other end of the island is a hotbed of politics where a British diplomat is attempting to retain the island under Britain's sphere of influence; where an ailing king is fearful of what will happen when he is succeeded by a young and untrained prince; where a nationalist group is plotting to overthrow the monarchy and seize the oil fields.

Waugh handles brilliantly his political plots, but always interwoven with them are the personal dramas of love and fear, of cowardice and courage. Rich in detail and characterisation, and in the exotic colours and customs of this strange land, the novel has constant suspense and variety.

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