Monday, August 9, 2010
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.