There has been so much commentary about The Slap since it was published, that I have to say that I don't think that there is much of value that I can say about this book that hasn't been said before, and a lot more eloquently.
As such, I will write a little about my thoughts after reading the book, but if you are particularly interested in finding out more about Tsiolkas's brilliant novel, I recommend that you read these wonderful reviews:
The Slap explores the consequences of an adult's decision at a family bbq in suburban Melbourne to slap a child that is not their own.
The book is comprised of eight chapters, and each chapter is written from the perspective of someone who was present at the bbq at the time of this event. The book isn't focused on plot per se, in fact the main plot point is resolved approximately three quarters of the way through the book. Tsiolkas's main concern was exploring the inner working of this range of characters.
Some of the characters were more authentic than others, and some were more interesting than others. I particularly found the character of Manolis (the Greek father of the host of the bbq) to be very uninteresting. I also found the choice of Richie (a teenager trying to come to terms with his sexuality) as the voice of the final chapter a little disappointing. He was so far removed from the main plot point that I wasn't really sure what value he added to the story.
The truth is, I didn't like any of the characters. They were all selfish, racist and narrow-minded in their own different way. I was particularly frustrated by the hippie other of the child that was subjected to the slap. I would have slapped the mother rather than the child if it had been me.
Essentially, Tsiolkas paints this really depressing picture of family life in suburban Australia; rife with drug use, violence and infidelity. He also explores issues related to gender, religion and cultural differences in a way that it is so honest that it was horribly confronting.
That's what the sad thing about this book is. I suspect that it is an accurate reflection of centemporary Australian life for a lot of people. I say "I suspect", for two reasons. First, I couldn't identify with the characters of the book; who were either a lot older or younger than myself and dealing with issues that are not within my experience. Secondly, because as an Australian it is hard to be objective.
I want to say that I loved this book, but I can't. I can't say that I loved it becuase I had such a negative emotional response to it. I was disturbed by The Slap; to the extent that it actually gave me disturbing dreams. I felt depressed when I finished it and couldn't help but wonder - is this really what people honestly think?
Having said that, I acknowledge that this books ability to elicit such a strong emotional response from me is a testament to how good it is. I am pleased that such an Australian book has had such an impact around the world and I was particularly pleased to see it long listed for the Man Booker Prize. The book deserves all the hype around it and I do recommend it despite my feelings upon finishing it.
What kind of read is this?
A very Australian read; one that really reflects the experience of many Australian people. Be prepared to be emotionally confronted though.
Do I recommend this book?
Yes absolutely, I recommend it to everyone.
Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I am pleased that I own a copy because I think that this will become an Australian classic. Other than that, it's up to you.
Have you read this book? People either seem to love it or hate it. Have you ever such a strong emotional response to the book that you can't honestly say you love it, but you can honestly say that you acknowledge how good it is?