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The Slap (2008)

by Christos Tsiolkas

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,1611385,370 (3.25)264
At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto 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. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.… (more)
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» See also 264 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Reading this alongside the justifiably acclaimed TV adaptation has been a fascinating experience. The television series is one of the great joys of 2011: exceptionally cast and beautifully directed, presenting eight individual stories which take eight very different people living in suburban Melbourne, and show us their hopes, dreams, fears and regrets. Yet, each of the stories fits snugly into an intriguing sociological story about the uneasy alliance of so many different lifestyles that exist in the modern city, all seen through the prism of one, simple action: the slapping of one woman's child by another man at a family barbecue.

Tsiolkas' novel is, of course, the origin of all of these stories (and the series' ability to be both remarkably faithful yet evolve into its own beast entirely is one of its many strengths), but I daresay this is one of those rare occasions where the adaptation outweighs the source material. Don't mistake me: I understand why the book caused such a stir. The basic issue of 'the slap' just cries out for debate, and his contrasting of the various lives - the ageing, ghetto-ised Greek immigrants; the struggling white trash/bohemians; the upwardly mobile adult children of immigrants; the inner-city hipsters - reasonably calls into question our notion of Australia, and Melbourne, as a multicultural utopia. And each of the eight stories that make up this novel works well enough on their own.

However, I found Tsiolkas' prose to be surprisingly workmanlike. His method of character creation is observational, but also comes about through simple sentences listing the features and beliefs of his characters. All of the characters are inherently believable, certainly, but never does the writing style rise above 'clunky'. Characters leave rooms yet somehow are there pages later; fights become friendships with no logical reason (of course, the nature of long-term friendship allows this, but as an author, you have to SHOW us, not TELL us!). Problems of self-doubt, particularly through the eternally-fascinating masculinity complex among Greek-Australians, are marvels for actors to play with - look at Alex Dimitriades and Lex Manolis in the TV series - but on the page, they just come across as tawdry cliches. (And the less said about some of the women, the better. Again: not the characters, just the way their internal paradoxes are conveyed.) I'm not sure if this is emblematic of Tsiolkas' general style, but it disappointed me, I must say.

Still, I don't mean to damn the man. While I don't think he's a very good writer in a technical or artistic sense, his ability to see the differing points-of-view of each character is quite impressive, and it's no surprise to me that the novel fared so well when placed into the hands of some of Australia's best writers, actors and directors. As a Melbournian, I've very much enjoyed recognising myself and those around me in his characters and locations. I adore my city for its many, often diametrically opposed, viewpoints, and The Slap reminded me of just how precarious such a social paradigm can sometimes be. It's a novel whose issues and characters will resonate with me for a long time to come. It's just not a very well-written one. ( )
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
I had to force myself to finish this novel, as it was tedious in the extreme. Despite an interesting plot in which one character chastises a badly behaved child and the impact of this behaviour on the other adults in the group, the plot quickly fell apart as the writer concentrated on the most unsympathetic characters I have ever encountered. By the end of the book I wanted to slap them all myself. A complete waste of good reading time. (less) [edit] ( )
  dolly22 | Jul 9, 2020 |
I loved this book! I have read many derogatory reviews here, and it reinforces to me that it does present a sort of 'harsh reality' in its depiction of middle class life in the suburbs. It is not flattering, but neither do I think it to be grossly unrealistic; it doesn't sugar coat anything, and it doesn't shy away from anything, it simply says it as it is. I think it is a brilliant, insightful piece of work, albeit, not for the faint hearted. Then again, if you are going to shy away from the issues of domestic violence, infidelity, homosexuality, narcotics, etc, you are probably exactly the audience Tsiolkas is looking to reach.

Below is a review I had to write for academic purposes, I thought i'd include it as a matter of interest:

'The Slap' is a depiction of contemporary life in suburban Melbourne amidst the clamour and grind of suburban domesticity. It is essentially a book about the chasm between political correctness and reality: multiculturalism in it's true form as a digression from John Howard's 'white Australia' paradigm. It provides a critique of this whilst making concession for the diverse array of Australian multicultural life: new age lifestyles, diversity, multiculturalism, marriage, adolescence, homosexuality, religion and politics. It is centered around a conflict between second generation Greek Australians and white Anglo-Saxon Australians as they struggle to find common ground after the incident of the 'Slap' at a family BBQ (whereby an adult slaps a child which is not his own). The division of loyalties is somewhat exacerbated by the characters' varying definitions of family, parenting and morality; and is reified through suburban distinctions. This supports Turner's view of the politics of urban development between suburbs: that inner suburbs prices are inflated by the rich getting richer (an effect of globalisation) forcing the working class out to the suburbs (p. 569), and resulting in unprecedented cultural changes. Harry, (the perpetrator of the slap) is a successful businessman living in the wealthy inner suburbs, who "can't stand the fucking Western suburbs" (Tsiolkas, 2008, p 108) and views Gary and Rosie as "scum" and "vermin" (p 161), "the types who will be renting all their lives" (p. 152). Gary is a failed artist, alcoholic, and a degenerate, married to Rosie, who hides from her failures behind her spoilt son Hugo (the victim of the slap). They eventually move out of Melbourne altogether, to the rural areas, further exemplifying Turner's political and economical suburban division.

Tsiolkas, C 2008, The Slap, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Turner, G 2008, The cosmopolitan city and its Other: the ethnisizing of the Australian suburb, Inter-Asia cultural studies, vol 9, issue 4, pp 568-582. ( )
  NickCosta | Jun 17, 2020 |
Having sat on my to-read shelf for years, I took this on a plane trip recently. I expected to leave it abandoned in my seat pocket for another person. Instead I found it hard to put down.

The premise of the story would never happen in reality – at a party of adult friends and their children, Hugo, a four year old, goes to wack another child with a cricket bat and the father of the target stops this happening by slapping Hugo on the face. The parents of Hugo insist on police involvement and the police take it to court. Because there is so little crime in Australia, that this stands out as a good use of police time and court resources. Not. It just wouldn’t happen.

But let’s pretend it could, because it makes for a great story, as the relations between the various adults are tested by the way in which Hugo’s parents behave and expectations by all concerned. A story gripping enough that not only was an Australian TV series made, but the US made its own – I’m almost curious to see what they did to it. Every main character in the story is ghastly. I’m truly impressed with the author’s ability to make such a readable story out of such shits as they all are. Young and old, they are all materialists whose high points are buying clothes, getting haircuts, drinking and drugging, getting bikini waxes and making entrances. The women are ghastly, the men, the Australians, the Indians, the Greeks, the young, the old. But having said that, the fact is that they are all utterly ordinary. People muddling through life in a self-centered – I, closely followed by my family, are what matters – way.

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/the-slap-by-christos-tsio... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Having sat on my to-read shelf for years, I took this on a plane trip recently. I expected to leave it abandoned in my seat pocket for another person. Instead I found it hard to put down.

The premise of the story would never happen in reality – at a party of adult friends and their children, Hugo, a four year old, goes to wack another child with a cricket bat and the father of the target stops this happening by slapping Hugo on the face. The parents of Hugo insist on police involvement and the police take it to court. Because there is so little crime in Australia, that this stands out as a good use of police time and court resources. Not. It just wouldn’t happen.

But let’s pretend it could, because it makes for a great story, as the relations between the various adults are tested by the way in which Hugo’s parents behave and expectations by all concerned. A story gripping enough that not only was an Australian TV series made, but the US made its own – I’m almost curious to see what they did to it. Every main character in the story is ghastly. I’m truly impressed with the author’s ability to make such a readable story out of such shits as they all are. Young and old, they are all materialists whose high points are buying clothes, getting haircuts, drinking and drugging, getting bikini waxes and making entrances. The women are ghastly, the men, the Australians, the Indians, the Greeks, the young, the old. But having said that, the fact is that they are all utterly ordinary. People muddling through life in a self-centered – I, closely followed by my family, are what matters – way.

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/the-slap-by-christos-tsio... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
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At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto 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. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.

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Although this is Australian author Tsiolkas’ fourth novel, it is the first to be published in the U.S. With its raw style, liberal use of profanity and racial epithets, and laserlike focus on the travails of suburban life, it is a down-and-dirty version of Tom Perrotta’s best-selling Little Children (2004). At a barbecue in a Melbourne suburb, a man loses his temper and slaps the child of the host’s friends. This incident unleashes a slew of divisive opinions, pitting friends and families against each other as the child’s parents take the man to court.
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