This is a book that I have seen in bestseller lists, bookshops and top 100s for years. I cannot comprehend how this book could possibly be popular.
“The Reef” by Di Morrissey is hands-down one of the worst books I have ever suffered through. In fact, when I first picked up a copy (I regret paying actual money for it) from a secondhand book store, I actually read some of the first few pages and immediately could tell that this was not going to be enjoyable to me.
This book follows Jennifer, who after growing up in the country moves to Sydney to study environmental science. A family tragedy and an overbearing mother drive the oblivious university student into the arms of Blair the ambitious barista, and then to an isolated resort hotel where she inevitably “finds herself”.
Jennifer is a blonde, blue-eyed stereotype who can’t see just how goshdarn beautiful and talented she is. To complement her extreme lack of introspection is her maddening naivete, her ability to secure friends, finances and accommodation without any meaningful contribution from herself and her plethora of anxieties and hangups that she relies on others to overcome for her.
The plot of this book is unbelievably banal. Jennifer manages to uncover a crime ring, get everything for free because of her winning (i.e. complete lack of) personality, overcome her fears and win the heart of man #2. While she is doing this, Jennifer manages to demonstrate a sheer disregard for consequences and learns nothing except that if you can’t do anything yourself, someone else will do it for you. She is shocked when she falls pregnant, despite not using contraception (she was worried about the effect of using the Pill on the environment, didn’t stop to think about any other form of contraception), and drinks continuously and heavily throughout the pregnancy (one person throughout the whole book suggests once that maybe that it’s not good for the baby, Jennifer dismisses this immediately).
As I stated above, I simply cannot understand how this book is popular. Jennifer as a character has almost zero agency and must rely on the generosity of others to survive, despite being described as being “strong” and “smart”. The plot is incredibly dull, and Jennifer is the world’s dullest detective. The characters are caricatures, and the mother (designed to show Jennifer in a good light, no doubt) just adds to how irritating a book this is. The writing is exceptionally boring, littered with cliches, two-dimensional descriptions and a sense of vapidity that is almost palpable.
My first Di Morrissey book, and my last.