Well finally finished last night very late! Frankly I didn’t think I would get through it. The beginning had so much cursing and bad sex, I couldn’t believe it. As the story advances, the principal themes start to become more clear. It’s basically a story of friends and is set in Australia, specifically Melbourne. The main characters are Hector, Anouk, Harry, Connie, Rosie, Manolis, Aisha, and Richie. The writer has given a section to each character. You learn about the characters’ background and how they are related to the other characters mentioned. Some of the themes are parenting, “being” Australian, alcoholism, domestic violence, aging, motherhood, family loyalty, homosexuality, drug abuse, marriage and fidelity. I may have forgotten a few but it’s a very vast list, too vast.
Tsiolkas tells the story from eight points of view where the characters question their desires, fears, and expectations. In the beginning of the novel, there is a family barbecue which turns into a disaster when an adult slaps an indomitable three-year old. The slap and its consequences force the characters to evaluate their family life and the way they live. The slap is the commencement of much retrospect which in turn brings out much jealousy, lying, and mistrust among the characters. As things progress, the story becomes more interesting because the scope of the characters is better developed and more interesting to read towards the end. I think my favorite sections are Aisha and Anouk. The majority of the characters are far from likeable because they sometimes do such despicable things but the core and themes of the story are what keep you reading.
Christos Tsiolkas has written Loaded (was turned into a feature film called Head-On), The Jesus Man, and Dead Europe. The Slap was longlisted for the Man Booker and was adapted for television on ABC 1. Tsiolkas is also a screenwriter, essayist, and playwright.
I’d recommend reading The Slap if you’re interested in a bite of Australia. The lifestyle is very much alive in the novel. Although the first 150 pages are probably the most difficult. You will either hang on for dear life, which I did because I was reading it for my book club today or drop it like a hot potato. I finished it at 10pm on Friday. I started counting how many times the f—-word was used. When I counted up to 50 and I was only at the beginning it started to get on my nerves. Someone mentioned that this was probably the way this class really speaks in Australia, but I’m not so sure. Someone else today mentioned that a lot of the cursing was what the characters were thinking. A lot of us found that the dialogue of these eight characters sure sounded alike, whether man, woman, old or young-not ver realistic. I remember my Australian friends from Egypt and they are nothing like the men described in The Slap, nor do they speak the way they do in this book. Then I thought could it be that they are not from the same class! It’s really too bad there are no Australians in our book club. We could have then got a better idea of what was realistic and what was stereotypic. Despite all the bad things we said about The Slap, we did find a few redeeming aspects to the story. I won’t get into details because I don’t want to write any spoilers. We did have a good laugh and extensive discussion. I’d give it about three and a half stars out of five, but I most definitely won’t be reading it again.
I don’t know much about Australian literature and the only other Australian I’ve read is Kathy Lette. I guess her writing would be considered Chick Lit, but it’s a funny and relaxing read. Someone suggested that I read Peter Carey, so I’m going to check him out. Hope to get one of his novels on my 50 read books list of 2012. I’ll keep searching for more examples so that I can maybe finally come to some conclusion about Australian literature. For the moment it’s a bit of a mystery…..
Check out the trailer for The Slap! It seems to follow the book quite closely. I can definitely see how this will keep audiences glued to the television in the evening.