I recently read Monkfish Moon, a collection of short stories by the same writer. I like the way he uses language so brutally, conveying strange lands and lives I have never experienced in an accessible but fascinating way. Reading the short stories, I yearned for them not to finish so quickly, having only just begun to feel settled.
Then onto Reef... Triton, a young boy is thrown into the life of Mister Salgado, a wealthy marine biologist, both living in Sri Lanka. The story mainly follows Triton's growth from odd jobs boy to master chef. His descriptions of food and his obvious pride are both endearing and a little boring at times, depending on their length. The relationship between he and Mister Salgado though, is fascinating and complex. The fact that Mister Salgado doesn't like to eat in front of others is an example of the jarring in their relationship with a simple issue like this - Triton loves food and wants to show it off at every opportunity and Mister Salgado wants to keep it private and quiet.
Some of the political issues are not as well explained as I would like but there is a sense of trouble brewing throughout. I think the element of marine life and the sea is meant to be a symbolic representation of the country being overthrown by water, as it is later overthrown by violence, but this isn't always as clear as it should be either.
I think the character of Nili really rejuvenates the story about a third of the way through. My own qualm is that Triton barely leaves the house and therefore doesn't develop any kind of relationship with others who do not visit the house, particularly women. I guess the suggestion is that he does so in England, later in the novel.
Overall, I enjoyed the read. I only took two sittings to read it. Triton is likeable, Mister Salgado a complex fellow, Nili, endearing and a little controversial. The story is also interesting and written well. As I said, my main issues were the isolation in terms of Triton and sometimes the discussion between Mister Salgado and his friends, which aren't always clear to an outsider. Still one of the better novels I have read for a long time and a good writer I hope to read more of.