The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas


The Slap won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. Really?

The Slap was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Colin Roderick Award. Really??

The Slap is currently on the long list for the Man Booker Prize. Really???

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I found myself speed-reading this book to get it over with, and I cannot recommend it at all. Not at all.

Quick plot summary: Somewhere in the suburbs of Australia, a little boy is slapped at a BBQ by a man who is not his father. This event is used by the author as a device to delve into the lives of the novel’s characters, eight of whom become the individual, central focus of a chapter of the book. The slap itself becomes a sort of signifier as each character places his or her meaning upon it and simultaneously takes from it what he or she wants.

Forget the seediness of the characters. Forget the ubiquitous and uninteresting sex scenes. Forget all the drug use. Forget the self-destruction running rampant through the novel. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of this–not if the book were well written. But it’s not. At times I thought Tsiolkas was trying to write a short story in each chapter, threading the slap through them all–to bind them together. But the chapters weren’t interesting enough on their own to survive such a structure.

Instead of using the entire novel to build and develop the life of an individual character, he tried to cram it all into the one chapter devoted to that character’s point of view. The result was tedious and boring. I didn’t care about the characters, and consequently, I didn’t care about the novel.

And I couldn’t help thinking, even as I read the female voices of the novel, that this book just screams out that it was written by a man. When I’m hearing the author’s voice overriding the narrators’ voices, that’s a problem, isn’t it?

Perhaps this novel is meant to be some sort of mosaic or kaleidoscopic look at modern Australian society. Maybe. Again, I find I really don’t care.

This was my “beach read” this summer. Hmm…I need another vacation. How about you? What was your “beach read”?

4 thoughts on “The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

  1. A horrid book, but maybe it's only saving grace is that it is truthful: it illustrates the worst of modern Australian society, by someone who obviously hates it. Even the mysogyny is authentic – the average Aussie male is reknowned for his drunkedness and woman-hating, but add the Greek view of women to the mix and you get something especially distasteful (Aussie joke: Q: What is the Australian definition of sexual foreplay? A: Nudge, nudge… “You awake, Sheila?”). Aussie culture is rapidly devolving into warfare and sports prowess, like the ancient Spartans. Maybe that's the link?

  2. Wow, what an thoughtful and interesting comment. Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think–I'd love to hear what some Australian or Greek men think of your views!

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