The tumultuous history of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is the backdrop to the story of Triton, a young houseboy. The novel begins in the present day England, where Triton meets a new refugee from Sri Lanka, and as he tells the clerk that he has been in England for twenty years, the story shifts back to him as an eleven year old, arriving to work as a houseboy, to Mr Salgado, a privelged member of society. Salgado is a marine biologist studying the reefs off the coast, and the symbol of the reef, possibly destroyed with the slightest change in the environment, parallels the change due to unrest in the country.
The novel, short listed for the Booker, is also about cooking and food, as Triton is eventually the cook and chief bottlewasher in the household. Meals are wonderfully described, and I want a new cookbook to try some of the dishes, seafood and curries and limes. The prose is easy to read, and there is probably some wonderful imagery and mood, that I absorb but couldn't exactly put into words, I just know that I liked it. I would like to read Gunesekera's first collection of short stories about Sri Lanka, Monkfish Moon. And wasn't that the point of the Reading Across Borders Challenge? To discover new authors and perspectives.