Sri Lanka: A Bachelor and His Servant

The island of Sri Lanka has a strong history of literature and the highest literacy rate in the area. Books have been written in several languages, and English is one of them. There are many books to choose from, and that is always a good thing. This time I did not really have a reason why I picked Reef by Romesh Gunesekera, it simply just happened.

Triton is an eleven-year-old boy who ends up as a boy servant to Sanjan Salgado, a marine biologist with a passion for the sea and the reef. The year is 1962 and therefore the story is set on Ceylon, because Sri Lanka was “not born yet”. Triton is a resourceful boy, and he starts helping the chef, and becomes a great chef himself. Not only that, cooking delicious food becomes his passion.

Salgado befriends a hotel worker and a relationship is about to happen. Triton follows the events with great interest. Throughout the year Triton and Mr. Salgado creates a strong almost homoerotic bond and they get extremely attached to each other. There is a lot of political tension on the island where most of the book is set on, but it does not really seem to find its way to Mr. Salgado’s life.

The book is a bit uneven and slow going. Most of it is set indoors and it is about observing others and a world of its own – Mr. Salgado’s world, which is set apart from what was happening in Sri Lanka at the same time. It is an OK read, but to me it is not a memorable read and quite frankly it did not have a strong impact on me. The metaphors in the book are nice, but otherwise I felt disconnected from the people in the book, and sadly even the nature.

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