The Slap
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The Slap

Christos Tsiolkas

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye on to that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse.

Review

When a man slaps someone else’s child at a friend’s barbecue, the small universe in the backyard begins to unravel. Not only are friends and family divided by the event, but it brings to the surface all the murk from below. The Slap is that rare and mesmerising combination of master storytelling and brilliant characterisation.

Spanning three generations, the eight characters we follow though the novel cover a vast range of emotions, opinions and experience, weaving together to create a maze of complex relationships. We see children coming of age, marriages teetering on the brink, and midlife crises erupting against a backdrop of lust, jealousy, deception and inadequacy.

Despite these raw themes, it is an incredibly sensitive read. The Slap condemns Melbourne’s middle class; its acute mediocrity is vastly outweighed by the depths of its anger and frustrations. Yet Tsiolkas finds empathy for even the most despicable characters and shows us how to understand them, whether we want to or not. The eloquence, pathos and ruthless honesty of this new novel make it an unsettling, but thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding, read.

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