Christos Tsiolkas has a very distinct style, which some people – quite understandably – find confronting and provocative. For this reason, our book club was divided over our responses and opinions, with one member vowing never to read Tsiolkas again. But this aside, it’s hard to deny that he writes perceptive, gripping fiction, which reflects our modern, middle-class Australian society in a way no author has done before. We also liked the fact that this book is set in Melbourne.
Personally, I loved this book, and the way the story gradually unravelled from the perspective of each of the key characters. It’s a dramatic and reflective novel that explores the way one single event can cause significant consequences for a group of family and friends. In this case, the event involved a man, Harry, slapping a 4-year-old boy who is not his son, at the 40th birthday of Harry’s cousin, Hector. As each character reflects on the controversial situation, we learn more about their lives, as they are forced to face confronting truths about themselves and their expectations, beliefs and desires.
The Slap is a powerful book about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the intensity of family life. (In 2011, the book was converted into an eight-part drama series on the ABC. Interestingly, I didn’t stick it out. I found the language and views of some of the characters to be more confronting on the screen than on the page – perhaps because it’s easier to gloss over the offensive parts when you’re reading).