I did not know what I was doing in there. I and my young refugee with his flickering cash register. He clicked another switch and the cubicle light went out. Then, as the stars brightened, I remembered a bay-fronted house six thousand miles away.
— from Reef

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize


‘A book of the deepest human interest and moral poise...Very few contemporary novels combine at so high but natural a pitch qualities of epic strength and luminous intimacy.’ Candia McWilliam, Independent on Sunday 

‘Gunesekera has created a work of strange, slow-motion, underwater intensity. Put your ear to the page and you can almost hear the ocean whisper.’ Robert Winder, Independent

‘A kind of Asian Tempest, drenched in the unreal, tropical colours of dream...One of the best novels published this year.’ James Wood, Guardian

‘Dark as one of Graham Greene's tropical undergrowths, funny in the way that Naipaul can be, multi-layered in the manner of Joyce, evocative as Narayan, Reef  is a thing of Beauty.’ Alan Taylor, Scotland on Sunday

‘A sensuous feast of delight, incessantly pleasurable to read…a book to slowly devoured, page by page.’ David Park The Times

‘Reef, one of the outstanding novels of our decade...’  Independent on Sunday

 'Lost innocence in the final years before the war is the theme of this eloquent first novel by Romesh Gunesekera, whose Monkfish Moon, a collection of stories about his homeland of Sri Lanka attracted critical attention here in 1993....[This] powerful novel preserves that memory beautifully...Reef is peopled with colorful, memorable characters....The book is incandescent." Edward Hower, New York Times Book Review

  ‘The book’s own spell arises from [a] voice … we have seldom heard before … calmly, it gives us a new and unexpected world; and gradually makes it feel like home.’ Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books

 ‘Wholly original, very ambitious language, and … exquisite.’ Neil Gordon, Boston Review  

‘Sensuous and impassioned … incandescent.’ Guy Amirthanayagam, Washington Post

 ‘This short book is truly exquisite. You could travel around the world and not be so thoroughly transported to another place .. heartbreaking.’ Carey Harrison, San Francisco  Chronicle                                                                  

‘A feast of language and meaning, which becomes richer and more nourishing with each mouthful.’ Patrick Rengger, Toronto Globe



BBC World Book Club


See who has Reef on their shelves at map.

Reef turns 25 at the Galle Literary Festival 2019.

To buy

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