Our staff review Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

In Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas once again holds up a mirror to the deepest insecurities and most dearly held dreams of middle-class Australia, delivering a searing exploration of failure, and how to come back from it.

Below, a collection of Readings staff offer their thoughts on the book.

Martin Shaw, Books Division Manager

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once said of the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar that ‘anyone who doesn’t read [him] is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches.’

I think with this novel, Christos arrives at that level as a writer. Although it’s a few months now since I read it, Barracuda still stays in my mind like some sort of reverie – or revelation. I must admit that when I was initially reading it I was imagining it being referred to as ‘Christos’s swimming book’, and recoiling, because it is oh so much more than that! In fact, it’s an extraordinary meditation on a number of themes, but none more so than on how one might live as a compassionate human being.

A brave, beautiful, essential book.

(You can read a longer review from Martin here.)

Emily Harms, Marketing Manager

Failure was never an option for Danny until he hit the wall. This is a story that shows us what happens when life gets in the way of dreams and what it is to be in conflict with what you want, and who you are. Danny Kelly is driven by success and consumed by his emotions. His only respite, beautifully captured by Christos, is in the water. The moment he is lost in the perfect swimming stroke is the moment Danny finds himself. Out of the water, his life is disconnected by family, lovers, school - and most of all: words.

It’s a journey of chaos and harmony, love and loathing – both between himself and the world. Christos brilliantly captures the power of youth through Danny, who is known as ‘Barracuda’. Fans of Christos’s previous work will certainly not be disappointed with this scintillating read.

Chris Gordon, Events Coordinator

Christos is one of the finest writers of this time and before reading his latest book, it’s worth reading his article in The Monthly on immigration and asylum seekers. Here, Christos provides the words we’re all struggling to find post-election.

Barracuda concentrates on the real Australia – the one that identifies the class system, the racism and the displacement of our young people’s ambitions. Reading his article, and then his novel, allows us to find both the stories and the facts to facilitate conversations that address our own discord with our national identity. A huge thank you to Christos for giving us yet another story that allows our truth to be identified and indeed, shamed.

Mark Rubbo, Managing Director

What struck me about Barracuda was the fierce intensity of it. At times I found this quite confronting but taken as a whole, it was this raw power that really made the book for me. The central character, Danny, is a driven young man who has to learn to cope with failure and rejection – at times that’s not a happy journey.

Like The Slap, Barracuda is certain to generate controversy, but I found this new title a much more enjoyable and complex book!

Barracuda is out now.

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Christos Tsiolkas

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