(Allen & Unwin)
What would you do if you saw someone hit a child who wasn’t their own?
This is the premise of Australian author Christos Tsiolkas’s novel The Slap, which follows a group of family and friends who witness this event at a BBQ, exploring how it affects them and makes them question their own lives and beliefs.
Set in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, each chapter is told from one person’s perspective. Through these raw and honest narratives Tsiolkas explores Australian suburban culture and society and the trials of family and loyalty.
Tsiolkas doesn’t make any apologies for his characters, instead showing them with all their flaws and contradictions. The thing I like best about his writing is how after only a chapter through their eyes you get to know these characters, their problems, thoughts and values.
You become enthralled with Connie, a 17-year-old girl in love with 40-year-old Hector, and feel all the emotions she has to navigate through. In contrast to Connie's world-view, you also see life from the perspective of Manolis, who reflects on family, ageing and his own mortality.
This novel is powerful in the sense that it challenges the reader. You may find some characters unlikable because of their choices and actions, but you will also end up asking yourself how you would react in this situation.
While the slap itself is the cataclysmic event of the story, the rest of the novel delves into the aftermath of the event and the reactions of those who witnessed it, intertwining it with their own lives and problems.
This novel questions religion, marriage, parenting in modern society, drugs, sex, infidelity and what it means to be a family. It shines a light on multiculturalism within Australia, with characters ranging from Australian to Greek to Indian backgrounds, exploring culture and the way it is viewed by others.
The Slap is one of those rare finds that polarises the reader and can spark a lengthy discussion between people. It’s provocative and controversial in its content and the issues that are bought up will leave you thinking about it long after the last page.
I would recommend this for older, mature readers, but while not always easy to read, this unique, engaging story is one that should not be missed.
4 out of 5 stars
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