Reef by Romesh Gunasekara
If you liked The God of Small Things, you will probably like this one too. I loved it! It’s a slim volume, less than 200 pages, written with such love and affection that it’s almost poetry. The book is set almost exclusively in a house in Colombo, written from the eyes of Triton, the servant boy. Absolutely nothing happens in the book. Triton comes to the house of Mr. Salgado and stays there, doing his work until one day they leave for England. Triton’s life is simple. There is the house to look after, the cooking to be done and Mr. Salgado, an ordinary man, but what poetry there is in this world, this simple home with the shadow of dark times gathering in the lanes just outside and the shadows that each man casts in his soul. There are long passages devoted to cooking. There are haunting references to the impending bloodbath in Sri Lanka. Right at the end, Mr. Salgado asks Triton to remind him of the Anguli-mala story. Those of you who grew up in the subcontinent might remember the same story as the link, a simple tale of remorse. The way Triton tells it though, is like a sock in the jaw. He turns Angulimala’s life into a Sysiphean task of cutting fingers, of killing and killing and killing, and all the time outside the house in Colombo, the death-squads are silently gathering.
In the end, this book is all about the writing. It was shortlisted for the 1994 booker but didn’t win, so I guess I got to read “How Late It Was, How Late” by James Kelman, even though some Booker winners can be totally unreadable.