Monday, December 19, 2011

Prepare to be Slapped...

The Slap
By Christos Tsiolkas
ISBN: 9781848877993
Allen and Unwin
4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Audience recommendation: Not for the faint-hearted. This is an intense, emotive read dealing with subject matter that forces you to acknowledge that humans are not so perfect or nice all the time! 

I chose The Slap as my bookclub’s book and it certainly was a fantastic book to discuss. As it so happened, my colleague and I read it around the same time, so each lunch hour I was eagerly reading it and then we would discuss the story as it unfolded. And this was a story that certainly got us talking. One of my concerns in writing this review was that I had so much to talk about - I have tried to streamline my thinking and discuss the points that impressed or disappointed me the most.

Now...let’s see...disappointed me, um, well, thinking, thinking...nope can’t actually come up with anything too disappointing (except for a few too many masturbation scenes)!

I had to agree with my colleague – it seems that readers either love it or hate it. I definitely sit on the ‘love it’ side of the fence and can understand why it has won numerous awards and caused so many people to form some pretty strong opinions about it.

Most people who don’t like the story say that they don’t like the characters, thinking they are just a bunch of rude, beer-swigging, swearing, sex-crazed ‘Australians’. And sure, the characters aren't likeable, and yes the story depicts Australians in an unflattering light. But I actually think that these types of characters could be anyone from anywhere.

I actually appreciated the fact that the characters weren’t likeable because each character is complex, realistic and dimensional. They are not sugar coated, sickly sweet and totally unbelievable.  I didn’t feel it necessary to ‘like’ the characters, I wanted to be challenged by them and drawn to read about them – and this I most certainly was.

The story is simple – friends are gathered at a BBQ and a little boy is slapped, but not by his parents. How the parents, friends and man who slapped the child react and deal with this is the obvious focus of the plot but because each chapter is told from a particular character’s point of view (so 8 characters), the reader gets to really delve into the thoughts and issues that plague these characters.

I was at times a bit overwhelmed by the extreme level of some character’s thoughts and actions and as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t ‘like’ any of them. To me they were characters that needed a bit of a slap themselves. However, they all had problems as a result of some deeper issue, they were all just trying to muddle through life.

I felt sorry for some, I really hated one, I was annoyed by them but it was these emotions that confirm the fact that Christo Tsiolkas is a very clever writer. Tsiolkas demonstrates that people have reasons for doing things - not necessarily excuses for their wrongs - but there are always two sides to any story. He also forces the reader to accept that humans are crazy, silly, stupid, pathetic, selfish and spiteful at times – we are far from perfect. Tsiolkas also successfully creates some very interesting relationships between the characters, which to me seemed so realistic and intricate.
The Slap is a book that pushes the reader past some emotional boundaries while studying many aspects of humans, their relationships and society. It is not a ‘nice’ read or one that I would recommend taking on your Christmas holiday – but if you are eager to be challenged and are prepared for the intensity of it – this is a brilliant read, one of the best stories I have read in a while.


  1. ooh - maybe I'll have to read it after all. m.

  2. I have not heard of this book before reading your review. It certainly sounds like a fascinating read. I love books that have complex characters and plots that really get me thinking. I have just added this to my list- and may pick it as my next book club pick. I bet it will spark some great discussions!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I actually finished a book Mich! Yes, read it all and loved it.

    I still think I prefer the ABC Tv series, storyline is a little different and characters like Anouk have a little more depth and the rage that comes from Harry in the TV series will stay with you for a while.

    Perhaps it is because I am more comfortable with that medium, or because I saw the TV series first.

    I've ordered the author's latest book from The Book Depository, hope it is as good!

    I loved The Slap and would give it 4.5 stars too. It sucks you in from the first page and is easy to read.

    Thanks for the recommendation!


  4. Great to hear it is on your reading list Jess, be sure to let me know what you think about it. It certainly is an interesting read, and yes, perfect to discuss so a good one for your bookclub. :)

    Very impressed with you, Miss Elise!! I am really looking forward to watching the TV series to see the differences in plot and characters. Glad you enjoyed lv.

    Thanks for the comments ladies, love it!!!