Reef

Overview

Reef is the elegant and moving story of Triton, a talented young chef so committed to pleasing his master's palate that he is oblivious to the political unrest threatening his Sri Lankan paradise. It is a personal story that parallels the larger movement of a country from a hopeful, young democracy to troubled island society. It is also a mature, poetic novel which the British press has compared to the works of James Joyce, Graham Greene, V.S. Naipaul, and Anton Chekhov. With his collection of short stories ...
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Overview

Reef is the elegant and moving story of Triton, a talented young chef so committed to pleasing his master's palate that he is oblivious to the political unrest threatening his Sri Lankan paradise. It is a personal story that parallels the larger movement of a country from a hopeful, young democracy to troubled island society. It is also a mature, poetic novel which the British press has compared to the works of James Joyce, Graham Greene, V.S. Naipaul, and Anton Chekhov. With his collection of short stories Monkfish Moon - a New York Times Notable Book of 1993 - Romesh Gunesekera quickly established himself as a leading literary voice. Reef earned universal praise from European critics and landed the young author on the short list for the 1994 Booker Prize, England's highest honor for fiction. Reef explores the entwined lives of Mr. Salgado, an aristocratic marine biologist and student of sea movements and the disappearing reef, and his houseboy, Triton, who learns to polish silver until it shines like molten sun; to mix a love cake with ten eggs, creamed butter, and fresh cadju nuts; to marinade tiger prawns; and to steam parrot fish. Through these characters and the forty years of political disintegration their country endures, Gunesekera tells the tragic, sometimes comic, story of a lost paradise and a young man coming to terms with his destiny.

Gunesekera's short story collection Monkfish Moon--a New York Times Notable Book of 1993--quickly established him as a leading literary voice. Reef, his first novel, tells the powerful and moving story of a young Sri Lankan houseboy who is so caught up in trying to please his master that he is oblivious to the larger world as it spirals out of control. "An enchanting, endlessly funny and affecting novel."--San Francisco Chronicle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this thoughtful, entrancing tale of a Sinhalese houseboy's maturation takes place in the early 1980s, in the edenic calm before Sri Lanka erupts in violence. Marine biology and native cuisine become metaphors for political and personal change as Gunesekera chronicles the story of Triton, who is 11 years old in 1962, his father an alcoholic, his mother dead, when he comes to the estate of aristocratic bachelor Ranjan Salgado. At first, Triton does odd chores for the houseman and cook, but gradually the clever lad learns all the workings of the household, and he eventually emerges as Salgado's only servant-in the process becoming a skillful and creative cook. Salgado himself is a lonely academic, fascinated with marine life and the evolution of the sea. Triton takes care of his master with an almost parental love, all the while learning about the world from Salgado's conversations and his many books. Ultimately, Triton finds himself living on his own in London, an independent restaurateur, wistfully remembering his homeland in happier times. Gunesekera (Moonfish Moon) brings a moving combination of innocence and wisdom to Triton's first-person narration. His spare, lyrical prose evokes the sensuous heat of the tropical island and conveys mouthwatering descriptions of Triton's many culinary triumphs. And his take on the synergies of politics, nature and personal striving is subtle and intriguing. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This gracefully written novel depicts the seemingly tranquil existence of Triton and his master, Mr. Salgado. They live surrounded by white flame trees and jam trees, red-beaked parrots, and yellow-eared salaleenas on the island-nation of Sri Lanka in the turbulent years that anticipate the escalation of civil war in 1983. Triton, a devoted servant and gifted chef, has never strayed far from the home of Mr. Salgado. He is so absorbed in performing his tasks that the political events taking place in Sri Lanka are no more than overheard conversations. As Triton grows in political awareness, Mr. Salgado remains a motivating force in his life. After Mr. Salgado leaves with Triton for London, Triton sets out on a course of self-education, reading the hundreds of books in his master's library. Triton's narrative is filled with details of sensory experiences and memories of youthful fears and dreams. Gunesekera is the author of a collection of short stories, Monkfish Moon: Short Stories (New Pr., 1993), which was a New York Times Notable Book of 1993. Recommended for most collections.-Rebecca Stuhr-Rommereim, Grinnel Coll. Lib., Ia.
School Library Journal
YA-This coming-of-age story is set in Sri Lanka; one of Gunesekera's gifts is to give readers a taste of life on that strife-ridden island. It has at its core themes of defiance, rebellion, and growth. The author delves into his characters' souls with ease, serving up a smorgasbord of tastes and interests. Triton, the adolescent narrator, forsakes his father's home to work as a houseboy for the patrician Mister Salgado, a scientist, a philanthropist, and, importantly, a politician. The story chronicles Triton's growth and experiences through an examination of the various relationships formed while living on Salgado's compound. He learns to love; he develops the skills required to become a professional chef; he becomes a young man. In addition to the personal conflicts, this is a novel of political intrigue; the Marxist revolution and ensuing class conflict serve to disrupt the bucolic lives led by the protagonists. The final separation between Salgado and Triton represents a growth and a loss for both. This beautiful, nontraditional, multidimensional story of loving and growing leaves readers with much to contemplate. With its tender and intimate detail, it offers readers an opportunity to become attached to the characters, become involved in their plight, and read a superlative narrative.-Richard Klein, Oakton High School, Vienna, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573225335
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1st Riverhead ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 648,440
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.05 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author


Romesh Gunesekera is the author of Monkfish Moon, Reef, The Sandglass, The Match, and Noontide Toll (all published by The New Press). He grew up in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and now lives in London.
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