The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, because I know there was quite a bit of hype about it and it was made into a TV mini series in Australia and the US.

In concordance with the hype, I was wowed.

This is an amazing piece of literature that documents the lives of a group of friends in their early forties and the people they are connected to. There is an appalling amount of swearing, almost every man seems to be having a secret affair, and the brutal honesty of the characters’ thoughts is astounding.

That’s what I can’t get over actually. Tsiolkas isn’t afraid to tap too far into someone’s brain and reveal all their darkness. The scary part is that it reveals how much darkness we actually suppress ourselves. It’s within us, it just never sees the light of day.

We are introduced to the main characters at a classic Australian backyard barbecue, and things go awry when a man slaps someone else’s child. (Hint: the child is an absolute brat)

From here, friendships are tested, marriages are tested and all the characters are forced to choose their alliances.

Not only does The Slap expertly convey the inner thoughts of a variety of different characters, it deals with some huge societal issues, such as:

  • Homosexuality
  • The attitude of youth
  • Modern parenting
  • Financial issues

And what’s more – it’s set in my own world of Melbourne and surrounds! 😀 This is so rare. When I read this my heart rejoiced a little bit:

The Altona garage was in the middle of ugly bogan suburbia, and though he was proud of the scale of the Moorabbin yard, it too sat off the wide asphalt hideousness of the Nepean Highway: eight lanes of cars, waves and waves of them, they never seemed to stop.

I live right near the Nepean Highway close to Moorabbin! And he’s spot on, the stream of cars never stop. So when I try to cross the road to walk my dog in the park in the morning, it takes about 10 minutes just to cross the ridiculousness that is the Nepean.

Tsiolkas is a master of describing the ugliness of suburban life: the landscape, the people, the dirty secrets of the people. His probing into the thoughts of his characters seems effortless and accurate:

Nothing any of her friends had said to her had prepared her for the shocking assault of birth.

I love that line.

And take a look at the way he can use just a few simple descriptive words to sum up a type of person:

A plump woman at the next table, all double chin and cold headmistress eyes, shook her carefully coiffed matron’s bob in disapproval.

Beautiful. Amazing!

I could rave more, but you should really just read it yourself, especially if:

  • You live in Melbourne and get excited by books set where you live!
  • Are deeply intrigued by the inner workings of people’s minds
  • Love clever writing
  • Can handle the narrative switching from character perspectives – as in, don’t get attached too much to anyone
  • Are interested in the multiculturalism of Australian life
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