Thursday, May 08, 2014


Reef is a 1994 novel by Romesh Gunesekera. I love the writing in this book. The relationship between the main characters is intriguing.

description of the book from the author's website:
A story set in a spoiled paradise. It is told by Triton, who at the age of eleven goes to work as houseboy to Mister Salgado, a marine biologist obsessed by swamp, sea movements and the island’s disappearing reef. Triton learns to polish silver; to mix a love cake with ten eggs, creamed butter and fresh cashew nuts; and to steam the exotic parrot fish for his master’s lover. As Triton recounts his story, an extraordinary voice emerges: naive and knowing, fearful and brave, a boy becoming a man in a world on the brink of chaos. Published by Granta.
quotes that struck me:
I don't know why I lied, but sometimes I start saying the wrong thing and find I cannot stop. I wanted to tell him exactly what I had seen and what had happened. But the words were impossible to get out. I did not want to be tarnished by telling -by putting into words- what had gone on. It would have spoiled everything. We would have had Joseph between us forever. It was not what I wanted. It was better, I thought, to leave it untold. That way maybe the event would fade. It would disappear. Without words to sustain it, the past would die. But I was wrong. It does not go away; what has happened has happened. It hangs on the robes of the soul. Maybe putting it into words can trap it. Separate it. Afterwards maybe it can go in a box, like a letter, and be buried. Or maybe nothing can ever be buried.
But it takes time, years, to learn how other people cope with themselves, how they come to terms with the changes that happen, always happen around them.
If there are gods in this world, or in the next, let them take pity on us and give us strength every day, because we need it every day. Every single day. There is no let-up, ever. Not really.
The thing you have to learn is to let what will happen, happen, I suppose. Not to struggle, not for anything."
I was learning that human history is always a story of somebody's diaspora: a struggle between those who expel, repel or curtail -posses, divide and rule- and those who keep the flame alive from night to night, mouth to mouth, enlarging the world with each flick of a tongue.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "An extraordinarily accomplished mix of the sensual and the cerebral in beautifully detailed settings by a writer of great promise." The Boston Review closes with this:
The perceptive, thrilling drama of his narration seems to burst the limits of his framing device, a tribute to the power of his story. I look forward to reading every word he writes, not only for the pleasure of following one of the two or three best writers I've encountered among my contemporaries, but also in the hopes of seeing his stories escape his rather tendentious narrative bias toward literary relevance and speak more simply and dramatically for themselves. explains the political background of the book. The Independent says, "Put your ear to the page, and you can almost hear the ocean whisper." It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.


  1. I usually like books that are shortlisted for the Booker prize. I'll have to see about this one, you know - hold it in my hand and read a few pages.


    1. yes, i agree. i like to actually look at a book in person before i commit.

  2. It sounds like one of those that I would buy, and then let lie on a shelf for ten years before reading it, loving it and wonder what took me so long.

    1. lol i have books like that. to be honest, proust sat on my shelf for probably a decade before i even started it. some books languish here for lack of attention. i recently gave away several books because i decided if i hadn't read them by now, i must not really want to.