The Slap

( 32 )

Overview

Read Christos Tsiolkas's blogs on the Penguin Community.

Read a review of The Slap on WorldNews.tk.

Read a review of The Slap on Timesonline.co.uk.

In this powerful and riveting novel, literary phenomenon Christos Tsiolkas unflinchingly exposes the inner- workings of domestic life, friendship and parenthood in the twenty-first century, and reminds us of the passions and malice that family loyalty can provoke. ...

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The Slap: A Novel

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Overview

Read Christos Tsiolkas's blogs on the Penguin Community.

Read a review of The Slap on WorldNews.tk.

Read a review of The Slap on Timesonline.co.uk.

In this powerful and riveting novel, literary phenomenon Christos Tsiolkas unflinchingly exposes the inner- workings of domestic life, friendship and parenthood in the twenty-first century, and reminds us of the passions and malice that family loyalty can provoke. When a man slaps another couple’s child at a neighborhood barbecue, the event send unforeseeable shockwaves through the lives of all who are witness to it. Told from the points of view of eight people who were present, The Slap shows how a single action can change the way people think about how they live, what they want, and what they believe forever.

“Tsiolkas is a hard-edged, powerful writer….The novel transcends both suburban Melbourne and the Australian continent, leaving us exhausted but gasping with admiration.” –Washington Post

“This astute exploration of suburban aspirations and failings . . . . vividly demonstrates the wide-ranging effects of a single moment’s rash decision. . . . Beyond simply igniting the plot, the fateful slap draws attention to generational and philosophical differences regarding family life and the complex political, social, and ethnic milieu of contemporary Australia.” —Publishers Weekly

“Radiates with vitality as it depicts the messy complications of family life.” –Booklist

“Complex and multilayered. …intertwined lives and slowly revealed connections make for a singular reading experience.” –Library Journal

“Wildly energetic and fearless, thrillingly about our lives now.” – Helen Garner, author of The Spare Room

“A gripping suburban fable.” – Men’s Style

“Strikingly tender . . . it claws into you with its freshness and truth.”—Sydney Morning Herald

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A group of family and friends gather for a backyard barbecue in suburban Melbourne, and the adults are all drinking a bit too much. The children are squabbling over computer games when a four-year-old with a temper tantrum brings on a disciplinary slap from an equally short-fused adult. The repercussions of this incident set off an ever-widening tsunami as the boys' parents threaten a lawsuit and their once tight-knit group lines up on one side or the other. Through the stories of eight of the partygoers, it becomes increasingly clear that everybody lies. These family-loving, house-proud, mostly successful Greek Australians could be kissing cousins of the American Sopranos. This essentially amoral crew own backstories rife with affairs, business misdeeds, and racial slurs. VERDICT This 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner will appeal to those who prefer their novels complex and multilayered. While there is not a lot to admire about most of the players in this exceptionally well-written story, their intertwined lives and slowly revealed connections make for a singular reading experience.—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Brigitte Weeks
Tsiolkas is a hard-edged, powerful writer, but glowing at the heart of all the anger among these feuding families are sparks of understanding, resignation and even love… In The Slap we live for a few short weeks in suburban Australia, learning the language, becoming intimate with the characters and experiencing their customs. But finally the novel transcends both suburban Melbourne and the Australian continent, leaving us exhausted but gasping with admiration.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This astute exploration of suburban aspirations and failings, winner of the Commonwealth Prize and Tsiolkas's first novel to be published in the U.S., opens at a barbecue in Melbourne, Australia, where nearly two dozen characters are introduced in the opening vignette. The reader barely has time to absorb their names and relationships before the pivotal event occurs: a man, Harry, slaps a bratty child who is threatening his son. At the center of the altercation are Hector, Harry's cousin, and Hector's wife, Aisha, who is friends with Rosie, the mother of the boy who's been slapped. When Rosie and her alcoholic husband press charges, longstanding relationships threaten to fall apart. Told from eight perspectives, each of which gets a novella-like chapter, the novel vividly demonstrates the wide-ranging effects of a single moment's rash decision on characters as varied as Harry's 71-year-old uncle and a high school student coming to terms with his sexuality. Beyond simply igniting the plot, the fateful slap draws attention to generational and philosophical differences regarding family life and the complex political, social, and ethnic milieu of contemporary Australia. (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143117148
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 380,237
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Christos Tsiolkas is an award-winning novelist, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter. His fiction has won numerous prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers Award, The Age Fiction Prize, and the Melbourne Best Writing Award. The Slap is his first book published in the US.

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Read an Excerpt

HECTOR

His eyes still shut, a dream dissolving and already impossible to recall, Hector’s hand sluggishly reached across the bed. Good. Aish was up. He let out a victorious fart, burying his face deep into the pillow to escape the clammy methane stink. I don’t want to sleep in a boy’s locker room, Aisha would always complain on the rare, inadvertent moments when he forgot himself in front of her. Through the years he had learned to rein his body in, to allow himself to only let go in solitude; farting and pissing in the shower, burping alone in the car, not washing or brushing his teeth all weekend when she was away at conferences. It was not that his wife was a prude, she just seemed to barely tolerate the smells and expressions of the male body. He himself would have no problem falling asleep in a girl’s locker room, surround by the moist, heady fragrance of sweet young cunt. Afloat, still half-entrapped in sleep’s tender clutch, he twisted onto his back and shifted the sheet off his body. Sweet young cunt. He’d spoken out loud.

Connie.

At the thought of her, sleep surrendered its grip on him. Aish would think him a pervert if she had overheard him. But he was definitely not that. He simply loved women. Young, old, those just starting to blossom and those beginning to fade. And sheepishly, almost embarrassed at his own vanity, he knew that women loved him. Women loved him.

Get up, Hector, he said to himself. Time for the routine.

The routine was a series of exercise that he executed without fail every morning. At most, it never lasted more than twenty minutes. Occasionally, if he woke with a headache or hangover, or with a combination of both, or simply with an ennui that seemed to issue from deep within what he could only assume to be his soul, he managed to complete it all in under ten minutes. It was not strict adherence to the routine that mattered but simply ensuring its completion—even when he was sick, he would force himself to do it. He would rise,  grab a pair of track-pants, throw on the T-shirt he’d worn the previous day and then perform a series of nine stretches, each of which he would hold to a count of thirty. Then he would lie on the rug in the bedroom and perform one hundred and fifty sit-ups, and fifty push-ups. He’d finish with a final set of three stretches. Then he’d go to the kitchen and switch on the coffee percolator before walking to the milk bar at the end of the street to buy the newspaper and a packet of cigarettes. Back home, he would pour himself a coffee, walk out on the back verandah, light a smoke, turn to the sports pages, and begin to read. In that moment, with the newspaper spread before him, the whiff of bitter coffee in his nostrils, the first hit of sharp tobacco smoke, whatever the miseries, petty bullshits, stresses and anxieties of the day before or the day ahead, none of it mattered. In that moment, if only in that moment, he was happy.

Hector had discovered from childhood that the only way to challenge the inert, suffocating joy of sleep was to barrel right through it, to force open his eyes and jump straight out of the bed. But for once, he lay back on his pillow and allowed the sounds of his family to gently bring him to complete wakefulness. Aisha had the kitchen stereo turned to an FM classical music station, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was flooding the house. From the lounge room, he could hear the electronic squeaks and tinny reverb of a computer game. He lay still for a moment, then threw back the sheet and looked down at his naked body. He raised his right foot and watched it crash back on the bed. Today’s the day, Hector, he told himself, today’s the day. He leapt out of bed and put on a pair of red Y-fronts, pulled a singlet over his head, took a long, loud piss in the ensuite, and stormed into the kitchen. Aisha was breaking eggs over a frying pan and he kissed her neck. The kitchen smelt of coffee. He switched off the radio in mid-crescendo.

“Hey, I was listening to that.”

Hector flicked through the nest of CDs stacked clumsily next to the CD player. He pulled a disc out of its case and put it into the machine. He pushed through the numbers till he found the track he wanted, then smiled as the first confident notes of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet began to sound. He kissed his wife’s neck again.

“It’s got to be Satchmo today,” he whispered to her. “It’s got to be ‘West End Blues.’”

He performed his exercises slowly, counting up to thirty in slow, measured breaths. Between each set he swayed to the slow-building sensual progression of jazz music. He made sure that with every sit-up he felt the tightening of the muscles in his belly, and with every push-up, he was conscious of the pull of the muscles on his triceps and pecs. He wanted to be alert to his body today. He wanted to know that it was alive, strong and prepared.

On finishing, he wiped the sweat from his brow, picked his shirt off the floor where he had flung it the night before, and slipped his feet into his sandals.

“Want anything from the shop?”

Aisha laughed at him. “You look like a bum.”

She would never leave the house without make-up or proper clothes on. Not that she used much make-up; she had no need to—it was one of the things that very early on attracted him to her. He had never been fond of girls who wore thickly applied foundation, powder and lipstick. He thought it was sluttish, and even though he was aware of the ridiculous conservatism of his response, he could not bring himself to admire a heavily painted woman, no matter how objectively beautiful she might be. Aisha didn’t need the assistance of make-up. Her dark skin was supple, unblemished, and her large, deep-set, obliquely sloping eyes shone in her long, lean, sculptured face.

Hector looked down at his slippers, and smile. “So can this bum get you anything from the shop?”

She shook her head. “Nah. But you’re going to the markets this morning, aren’t you?”

“I said I would, didn’t I?”

She glanced up at the kitchen clock. “You better hurry.”

He said nothing to her, irritated by her comment. He didn’t want to hurry this morning. He wanted to take it slow and easy.

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

Copyright © 2008 by Christos Tsiolkas

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 32 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

4 Star

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(6)

2 Star

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(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This won Commonwealth Writer's Prize 2009!

    To say I didn't like this book doesn't really express the depth of my feelings. I am astonished, astounded, amazed, and aghast that this would be considered for any prize anywhere. It felt untouched by an editor's pen, and by a publisher's good sense. Weighing in at very close to five hundred pages, this tome was digressive to an extreme. The story can be summarized: unruly child threatens another and is walloped by parent. This simplicity is trampled in long, sordid descriptions of several families' vacuities, infidelities, and hatreds. There was no relief from these horrid folks. I disliked one more than the next. I know for a fact that Australia has great writers, so I can only guess at why this selection was chosen for an award. Poor choice.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    Boring

    Pass on this book. It is painfully boring and without a substantial plot.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    She

    Bit his dik off.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Ava

    I was here first

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    James

    Fu.cked your mouth

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012

    Loved it

    This was my favorite book that I read this year. I could not put it down because I wanted to find out what happened to all of the characters. It is like the best kind of soap opera-Desperate Housewives at the start.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    not great

    well i tried to read this book, and i h=guess i wasn't into the uk type of books, this book didnot impress me at all. so i guess this reviewwon;t be that great, but i can tell you that the story starts out with a bar-be-que and a kid gets slapped by a male, because the kid was acting up. the parents of the child did nothing when the kid was acting up and now thery want to press charges on the person that did it. but when i was growing up, man we would get blown out spankings...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 14, 2010

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    Posted August 3, 2011

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    Posted February 25, 2011

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    Posted August 14, 2010

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    Posted January 14, 2013

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    Posted May 18, 2010

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    Posted March 23, 2011

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    Posted March 29, 2012

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    Posted December 12, 2010

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    Posted April 9, 2012

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    Posted February 28, 2011

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