Book: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
– paperback edition, 485 pages.
Synopsis: At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.
The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.
What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity – all the passions and conflicting beliefs – that family can arouse.
My thoughts: I felt like reading some contemporary Australian fiction this month, and pulled this off my shelf because it seemed to suit my mood. I’d heard positive things about this book from quite a few people in my life, and I figured that plus the fact it had been turned into a television series (and subsequently adapted for American audiences) meant it was guaranteed be a good read.
I ended up in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I loved the setting. I don’t read nearly enough books that are set in Australia, and they’re always such a joy to read when I do. Also, at one point in the story two of the characters travel to Bali which was a pleasant surprise for me because that’s where I happened to be when I read the majority of the book. I found the story interesting, and the characters well developed (if for the most part completely unlikeable). The book switches between character viewpoints in each chapter, and I felt like this detracted from the book a little bit because it interruped the flow of the story for me.
Now for the negative. I don’t consider myself particularly prudish but I found the language used to be really shocking and confronting, and I was even considering putting the book down because of it. The racist and homophobic terms used made me feel really uncomfortable, and I really had to make an effort to push past the language to be able to continue reading the book. If this is something you are particularly sensitive about, I would not recommend this book for you.