Review | Thursday 30 October 2008
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.