Monday, August 9, 2010

The Slap


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is the first book I've read that's on the Booker longlist and I'm not quite sure if it's deserving enough to get on the shortlist. I did read the whole book but only because it felt like a very good season of a TV soap like Desperate Housewives or Mad Men only in this case I think it should be renamed Desperate Housewives and Husbands.

The premise is very interesting especially if you're a parent yourself. At a suburban barbecue in Melbourne, Hugo, a spoiled three-year-old child is about to hit Rocco, an older boy, with a baseball bat. Hugo's parents do nothing so Rocco's dad quickly picks up Hugo and slaps him in front of the stunned guests. Was he right to do this or not? Thus begins the book as told from the points of view of different guests and the parents involved. But it's not only about this incident, it's also about the sad lives of some of these people. The book is filled with graphic sex, foul language, adultery, racism and drug use. In fact, I'm surprised at how much drugs was such a rampant and casual thing in this novel even among young teenagers. It almost felt as common as having a drink.

The Slap was a huge success in it's author's country, Australia. It won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Overall Best Book and was at the number one spot for weeks. I think the most interesting aspect of this book was reading about the immigrant experience in Australia. This is something the author himself has first hand knowledge of coming from a Greek family. It was also a novelty to read a contemporary Australian novel and get a view of suburban life in Melbourne. Because of all the graphic scenes and language, The Slap was unpleasant at times but as I said I kept reading on wondering what would happen to each and every character. So it was definitely engaging enough to keep my attention. The end, I think, was unsatisfying and ultimately just sad all around. This wasn't a great book for me, it was just ok.

9 comments:

  1. Im only going to read the shortlist this year so it'll be interesting to see if this one does get through and I end up reading it. Thanks for the warning on the lanuage etc, from the cover it really doesnt look like it'll contain all that much sex etc

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  2. I like this version of the cover - much nicer than ours in Australia! This book has definitely had a lot of success over here - I'm still to read it though.

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  3. I have read another review similar to yours. I already decided based on the first one not to read it. I think I will definitely skip it. Thanks.

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  4. I am pretty sure I have this book on reserve at the library right now. I am not sure if I'll like it, but thought I'd give it a chance since it was longlisted.

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  5. I read this last week and I had mixed feelings about it too. I am from suburban Australia and so the setting and depiction of family and social life was very familiar and accurate.

    I am younger than the characters, being someone who is only thinking about starting a family now, rather than having a young one already and I found the depiction of family life somewhat depressing. Sadly, I suspect that it accurately reflected how a lot of people feel. But it was so depressing. Really depressing. I felt uncomfortable the whole time that I read it.

    But the fact that it can invoke that kind of feeling is probably a sign that it is a great book.

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  6. While shopping, I came across this book several times. It was getting a lot of press at the time, and still seems to be a hot literary topic. As yet, I haven't felt compelled to read The Slap, though that may change (your review has piqued my curiosity). As you mentioned, it's difficult to find contemporary Australian novels, which is another draw for me as well.

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  7. Doesn't sound like my kind of read - a bit sensationalist really. Perhaps because of its contemporary relevance it was chosen for the shortlist, though probably just as much because the publisher paid a lot of money to get it noticed.

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  8. I don't know that I'll read this book, but the question of whether or not its ever appropriate to discipline another person's child is intriguing. I'm not so much into slapping children, though. That just doesn't sound cool to me.

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  9. I'm not sure if I would like this one, but a lot of people are blogging about it.

    Hope u r having a great week.

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