Friday, November 4, 2011

Tis the season to read The Slap...

One of the books I purchased when I was frolicking overseas recently was The Slap  by Christos Tsiolkas (got is very cheaply at this fantastic shop in Dubai)! I know, I know, I should have read this book ages ago and yes, it is the ABC mini-series that has renewed my interest in it. Besides, I felt I should read the book before I see the series. A fellow bookclubber also felt the same so we decided to just choose this book for bookclub.

So if you want to give it a go, or have already read it and want to comment (especially if you have seen the series and want to compare) you have until 3rd January to read and comment on this book (or tv series).

 And if this book is not the one for you, let us know what you do end up reading over the festive season and what your review is...


  1. I havent read it, but have spoken to someone who has. I have also watched the tv series. The comments I received were that that was nothing redeeming about the characters. I agree now, but think the reason is because the author was clever enough to create a scenario of perfectly flawed characters that are mostly unlike-able so we don't take sides or are biased one way or other relating to the incident. The story is like any other that uses an interesting central theme with a web of rotating characters circulating said central theme. Interesting to read, though, see how he depicts the characters.

  2. I have to admit my interest in this book was renewed when the ABC series aired. I had always found the novel’s premise appealing – at a backyard barbeque, a man slaps a child who is not his own – but I had put off reading it for a few years because the reviews were so mixed. People seemed to either love it or hate it. Obviously, based on my four-star rating, I loved it! I thought it was an unflinching, complex and insightful examination of family, parenting, sex, multiculturalism, modern values and Australian suburbia.

    One of the main criticisms was that the characters were unlikeable. For me, it’s not about whether characters are likeable, but whether they’re compelling, and I was absolutely sucked into these characters’ stories. Sure, they often behave very badly – they cheat on their partners, take drugs, lie, abuse each other – but Tsiolkas is so masterful in his characterisation that I felt empathetic towards even the most “unlikeable” protagonists. Nothing is black and white. No-one is wholly good or wholly bad and that’s what I loved about this novel.

    There is a lot of swearing and sex, but for the most part I didn’t find it gratuitous (alright, I did skip a masturbation scene towards the end). “The Slap” is an intense read, but give it a go. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

  3. As it so happened, my colleague and I read our bookclub book 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 these comments 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!