Wednesday, September 26, 2012

‘The Slap’ by Christos Tsiolkas

26 September 2012

I’ve just finished reading Christos Tsiolkas’s novel ‘The Slap’ (as an unabridged audio book narrated by Alex Dimitriades). ‘The Slap’ seemed to attract equal amounts of praise and condemnation on its publication in 2009 – its readers taking sides in much the same way as the central plot divides the novel’s characters. The book starts with a family barbecue in Melbourne at which an adult loses patience with an unruly child and strikes the toddler. The rest of the book deals with the reactions of those present, dividing friends and families as to whether this was a justified ‘slap’ or an unpardonable act of violence by an adult on a child. The novel is structured as a series of eight interlinked short stories, each showing the point of view of one of the people present at the barbecue. This allows Christos Tsiolkas to fill in the backstory of each of the families and friends and provides an interesting exploration of varying ethnic and cultural backgrounds and different generations. I liked the way the reader is kept guessing which character is really at the centre of the story. And there is an intriguing inevitability to the way another ‘slap’ occurs towards the end of the story – thought not quite in the way you expect. But I’m not sure I really enjoyed ‘The Slap’: almost all of the characters seem fairly unlikeable – violent, misogynist, deceiving, swearing, drug-taking and cruel. ‘The Slap’ is a very clever novel but I found it a bit cold.



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