In this powerful and riveting novel reminiscent of Liane Moriarty's Truly, Madly, Guilty, 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 shock waves 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.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.38(w) x 7.86(h) x 1.06(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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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.
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
Excerpted from "The Slap"
Copyright © 2010 Christos Tsiolkas.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Reading Group Guide
On a summer afternoon in a Melbourne suburb, friends, family, and neighbors gather at Hector and Aisha’s home for a backyard barbecue. The children play together while the adults drink beer, sample Hector’s mother’s Greek specialties, and debate school systems. As the lazy hours while away, tensions mount: Disagreements and longstanding differences flare between guests. The children quarrel over toys and videos. Hector is on edge waiting for his teenage mistress to arrive and takes some speed with a friend of a friend. Then Hugo, the wayward child of Aisha’s childhood friend Rosie, throws a tantrum. Hector’s cousin Harry, trying to protect his own child from Hugo’s violent outburst, slaps him. The stunned silence of the onlookers is only the first sign of the shock and outrage that ripples through the community.
The following chapters, each told from the point of view of one of the barbecue guests, depict what happens next. Police are called to the scene. Rosie and her husband Gary press charges despite Harry’s and Hector’s urgings to settle it between the families. Harry, a wealthy businessman, hires a well–connected lawyer to represent him, while his working–class accusers, increasingly embittered and seeking justice, end up with a court–appointed attorney. On trial are not just the slap and the moral question of whether any adult is ever justified in hitting a child, but also the values and lifestyle choices of the accusers, who live in public housing and still breastfeed their three–year–old. In the days leading up to the trial, Hector’s family and Aisha’s friends start taking sides, pressing the already strained marriage to a crisis point and endangering the goodwill of everyone involved.
In the meantime, Hector’s teenage paramour Connie and her gay best friend Richie, who both babysit for the troubled child, find themselves wrapped up in the case—and the adult concerns surrounding it—in ways they hadn’t anticipated.
With unflinching insight and ambitious scope, Tsiolkas’s novel sympathetically delves into the underbelly of middle–class suburban life, exploring the drug use, racism, extramarital lust, domestic violence, alcoholism, and crippling jealousy that plague his intersecting cast of characters. Tsiolkas effortlessly slips in and out of their widely varying perspectives, laying bare their most difficult truths. Brutal and compelling, The Slapportrays a world where the natural human yearning for safety and security is always threatened by a darker current of destruction and desire.
ABOUT CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head–On; The Jesus Man; and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award. The Slap was short–listed for the Miles Franklin Award and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Australian Literary Society’s Gold Medal. Tsiolkas is also a playwright, essayist, and screenwriter. He lives in Melbourne.
A CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS
Q. This book revolves around a central, powerful incident: the titular slap. How did you settle on this as your subject? Was it always clear to you that you would tell the story with this particular structure, using a prism of different perspectives?
It was the structure that came first. I knew that I wanted to write a contemporary novel, a novel that was about my city and my culture as we all live now. I wanted to write about class and gender, about ethnicity and place, and I knew that I needed a structure that would allow for multiple voices, that would allow for differing perspectives. One of my favorite films of all time is the Japanese classic Rashamon, directed by Akira Kurosawa. That film is set in medieval Japan and retells the story of a rape through five different perspectives. It is a film that challenges us to ask questions about the nature of truth. It struck me that our contemporary age is characterized by contested notions of authenticity, that we live in a pluralist world where we are very aware that our gender, race, and sexuality play a large part in how we interpret the world. The structure of having multiple voices allowed me to reflect, through the writing, something of what it is like to live in our world now.
Part of what attracted me to such a structure was the challenge of wondering if I could pull it off, as a writer, to have a narrative told through eight different voices, to see if I could maintain a reader’s attention across those eight voices. It kept the writing process interesting, kept me on my toes.
So the structure came first, and some of the characters, but the actual incident of “the slap” came from something I witnessed at a barbecue held by my parents. It was not dissimilar from the barbecue that is described at the beginning of The Slap. My parents had invited friends and family to a big barbecue. At one point the four–year–old son of a close friend was playing in the kitchen while my mother was very busy cooking, baking, preparing an astonishing amount of food: there were the meats, two chickens in the oven, there were spinach pies, roast vegetables, and endless salads. The little boy was playing on the floor, opening and shutting cupboards, and my mother kept ordering him to stop. At one point he opened a cupboard and two or three pots and pans fell to the floor. My mother, harassed, took hold of him and very lightly, softly, patted him on the bum. “Jack”, she said, “I said stop!” What I will never forget is Jack’s look of shock at what had happened. Just as I have Hugo say in the book, he turned to my mother, placed his hands on his hips and said, “No one has the right to touch my body without my permission.”
To which my mother replied, “If you are naughty, I will smack you.”
Now, I want to make sure it is understood that there was no violence in what my mother did. It was the softest of pats on his backside, the boy’s mother was there, and we all laughed. The incident was promptly forgotten and we all continued having a grand day at the barbecue.
But driving home that evening my thoughts went back to the incident and I remember thinking of the world of difference between the young boy’s experience of life and that of my mother’s. She is a migrant from Greece, who was raised in that terrible period of Greek history where she experienced both the Nazi Occupation and the horrifying civil war that tore Greece apart after the cessation of World War II. She grew up in a culture where she was denied education because she was a woman, a culture where she was beaten if she as much as dared look askance at a man. Then there is the young boy’s experience of growing up in a postmodern world where his godfather is a gay man and where he has a sense of rights owed to him even before he starts school.
It felt like a gift, having observed the incident I described above. I knew I had the beginning of my book, that it would start at a Melbourne barbecue, and that it would involve an adult who slapped a child who was not his own. It is such a simple idea but I knew it would allow me to explore questions of family and honor, questions of cultural shift and cultural change.
The very next day I started writing the book.
Q. This book has been characterized as a portrait of Australia’s new middle class. For the benefit of American readers, can you describe what distinguishes Australia’s “new” middle class from the older one, and why this segment of the population interested you?
One of my frustrations with much of Australian literature has been how it still represented a homogenous Anglo–Celtic culture that did not tally with my experience of growing up in a city such as Melbourne. After World War II, Australia undertook a period of mass industrialization that resulted in a doubling of its population and the coming into the country of hundreds of thousands of migrants initially from southern Europe, and then increasingly from Asia and the Middle East, which profoundly changed the makeup of the population. The children and grandchildren of these immigrants are now middle class, we are now Australia’s business people, teachers, writers, artists, and filmmakers. I wanted to write a novel that gave voice to this experience.
When I have traveled in the United States I find many things I recognize there: a sense of the possibility of the “new world,” the ubiquity of the open road, the divorce of class identification from lineage. For such reasons (and also because of the music!) I feel more at home in the United States than I do in Europe.
However there are three main differences between the Australian and the American experience I want to outline because I think they are important for understanding the book.
First, we never had a revolution and so our colonial ties to Great Britain have never been severed. That means for a long time Australians understood their destiny as inexorably linked to that of “Mother England,” and the Anglo–Celtic nature of Australian society was assumed. One of the first acts of the Australian parliament in 1901 (previous to this Australia consisted of a half dozen colonies of Great Britain) was the White Australia Policy, which limited migration to the country to English speaking “whites,” i.e. northern Europeans. It was not until after the end of World War II that non–Western Europeans were allowed entry into the country and the act itself was not officially abolished till 1972. My generation is the first one in this country that does not feel an allegiance to Britain, that sees itself as much Greek or Vietnamese as it does “English.” This is a profound change in Australian identity and it is only till very recently that our art is beginning to reflect such changes.
Second, having traveled through the United States, the fact that Australia was never a slave colony means that we have subtly different ways of understanding race and racial oppression from the Americans. African Australians are people who have come from Africa or whose parents were migrants or refugees from Africa, largely over the last two decades. We did not have the tragedy of the Atlantic slave trade and so “color” is not as much an issue in terms of Australian racism as is the question of “ethnicity,” i.e. cultural background.
We never had slavery on this continent but we did have the transportation of large classes of British and Irish “convicts” to Australia, and while I was growing up the big divide for an older Australian generation was between those whose heritage was “convict” and those who could draw a line back to being “free settlers.” However, with the coming of people to Australia from across the world, from southern Europe, Asia, and Africa, this historic legacy is felt less keenly now than it was when I was growing up.
Third, and I think most important, the most vexing and difficult political question for us Australians is the continual dispossession of the Aboriginal people from their land and culture. No other issue more troubles our nation and it is the reason why so many of our great works of art have been attempts to deal with this history. It is one of the reasons why I wanted to have Bilal’s voice in the book, someone whose very history is about the tragedy of genocide and dispossession. A “slap” is delivered to every character in the book, and for me, the most important “slap” is the one Bilal delivers Rosie in her chapter when he tells her he wants her to have nothing to do with his family, that her people are “no good.” It is a provocative moment, particularly as it is delivered to an Anglo woman by an indigenous man. One of the continuing tragedies of our ongoing inability to heal the wounds of racism here in Australia is that too many indigenous youths are destroyed by alcohol and drugs. Bilal has found, through Islam, a means of transcending the violence of such a past. That too is a provocative choice but I think faithful to an experience, and possibly one Americans can recognize from their own history of racism.
Q. The geography of Melbourne and its various neighborhoods plays an important role in this book—in some cases, almost defining the characters and their social status. Do you view geography as a kind of social destiny?
Melbourne is my city—I know it, understand it, I fall in and out of love with it. I know from my own experience as a reader that there is a real pleasure that comes from having a writer give you as “sense of the world”. One of my favorite writers is Carson McCullers and, though I have never been to the southern United States, I feel like I know it from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. I think it is important as a writer to not forget what we have learned as readers. Readers are willing to be introduced to a city or a place as a character, to discover its neighborhoods, geography, sights, and smells through the power of words.
Do I think that geography is social destiny? I don’t think that we are necessarily bound by geography but we are shaped by it. The Slap is a novel about the middle class and one of the things that defines the new middle class is gentrification. Melbourne was a very industrial city, its inner neighborhoods were migrant and working–class until only very recently. I wanted to have characters reflect on the changes in their city, and I hope that through such reflections a reader anywhere in the world can identify with how physical space is as much a marker of memory as is family, as is love and desire.
Q. The middle class world of The Slap is very insular, with the adults mainly focusing on their own children, careers, and homes, and yet the outside world—race and gender and sexual identity struggles, politics, history—seeps in, almost despite the characters’ self–centeredness. A reader could potentially find a sly commentary in there. Do you think these characters would be more psychologically evolved or even happier if they were more directly engaged with bigger issues?
The novel was written at a time when Australian culture was the richest it has ever been, where we were the wealthiest we had ever been. Concurrent with the rise of such wealth was a growing sense of entitlement. It seemed to me that over the last two decades Australians have become more selfish, that a myth we told ourselves about being an “egalitarian” people was being displaced by a belief that it was “every man and woman for themselves.” Growing up I never heard the word “loser” being used, it was just not something we said to one another, even in the schoolyard. Now I hear that word everywhere. I probably would question how true the old myths were, but undoubtedly I believe that we have grown more selfish in our culture.
I am a man who wants to think of political questions. I am also very aware of the possibilities and opportunities that I have, that come from the struggles of feminists, civil rights activists, from many committed individuals in history who suffered to allow me to live as an openly gay man. I feel I want, in my life, to honor that history. I am often shamed by how I fall short of that goal.
I think the sense of entitlement that so many people now have is corrosive. It does create selfish communities, selfish marriages, selfish families. I am also equally wary of a self–righteousness that I find in many of my peers, and I fear that I see it too often in myself. It was very important in writing the book that I was honest about the lies we tell ourselves, the many small and big compromises we make in order to not be challenged or to not have our comfort disturbed. I fear that our present culture is not a brave one but I wanted to be honest about my own shortcoming as a man. I have felt shame, I have betrayed people I love, I have hurt people out of spite and selfishness. I wanted to be honest about my generation and the only way I found I could do that was to be as honest a writer as I could.
My own favorite character in the book is the old man Manolis. Not that he isn’t racist, not that he isn’t misogynist, not that he hasn’t made and continues to make mistakes. But he does not have that sense of entitlement that I see in so much of my generation; he does not have that self–righteousness. He knows there is a bigger world out there than himself. I think many of us have forgotten that.
I should say I detest reading books in which characters are defined solely as “good” or as “evil,” where contradiction and doubt and complexity are erased, where it is assumed that we always know what is correct or right behavior. Those kinds of books make me want to drown myself in whiskey just to rid myself of the stench of both entitlement and righteousness. I am too polite to name names but I’d prefer to read the cheapest porn, the most commercial potboiler, rather than spend time in those narrow, politically correct worlds. Those books stink of the worst of the contemporary middle class.
Q. An interesting element of your narrative structure is that these very disparate and sometimes at–odds characters tend to view one another very similarly. For instance, there’s a widely held consensus that Hector is vain, Harry is violent, and Gary is a drunk. Are you suggesting that there are certain universal truths about people?
I came of age in a literary culture where the “universal” was something to be suspicious of, and to be “relativist” was considered a more appropriate response or attitude to take. I understand this thinking. Of course I do, this is why I have chosen the structure that I have in the novel, to have the narrative be taken up by eight different characters, to have the reader constantly have to shift their identification, to have to question their conclusions.
But given all that, yes, I do believe in the reality of universal truth, that there are experiences that can be understood across time and space. The films I love, the books I adore, the paintings and music that mean the most to me, they all prove this.
I hope I will not be seen as being evasive if I answer that, yes, I do think that there are universal truths about people but that I want the reader to question the “universal truth” assumed for each character by the other characters in the book. I am not being deliberately cryptic here. But one of my intentions in writing the novel was to have the reader ask precisely such a question, to have to weigh how the “truth” of each character is unsettled when we hear their voice, or see something through their eyes.
I will speak now as a reader rather than as a writer. I know that the best books, the books I love most or unsettle me, upset me, disturb me the most, touch something of the universal even when the particulars of narrative, characters, place, and time have nothing to do ostensibly with the geography and biography of my own life. For readers and writers to reject the universal is to betray the very possibility of fiction.
Q. Rosie, with her indulgent parenting, self–righteousness, and inability to confront reality, is perhaps the least likable of all of the characters here, yet you manage to evoke the reader’s sympathies once we can finally step into her point of view. How, as a writer, do you manage to make a difficult and flawed character sympathetic?
If I assumed that readers were only interested in characters that were sympathetic, then I might as well give up writing. It is the challenge of writing to get into the minds and consciousness of difficult characters, to try to understand the “strangeness” of other lives.
Rosie represents the worst of the self–obsession, the entitlement and self–righteousness I associate with my own generation. But I think it is that I see those traits in myself that allow me to try and imagine her world, her thinking, her confusion, her determination.
I think that if a writer is faithful to an experience, then that is one way that you can allow a reader to enter the consciousness of even the most difficult of characters.
When it comes to Rosie, I have been surprised at how visceral the hate directed toward her can be. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It has been one of the things that have most disturbed me over the last twenty years, how excoriating people can be about mothers, and how often other parents can be the worst culprits. I wonder if the violent responses regarding Rosie are not telling of our own confusions and fears about parenthood, about how we are raising our children, our nieces and nephews.
I did not have a chapter in Rosie’s voice for the first few drafts of The Slap and I knew it was my being fearful. Her voice was essential in this book. I was resisting writing in her voice because she was exactly the kind of person I derided, one of those people I cursed and dismissed. So when I came to writing in her voice I had to do what I did with all the characters, I had to find an element of my own experience that could serve as a guide. Just as with Harry, I had to interrogate my own instinct for aggression and violence, and just as with Hector I had to admit to my own narcissism, with Rosie I had to explore my own need to have everything to appear “nice,” to not want to admit to the truth of how fucked one’s life can be. That was my way in because it is also one of the things I most detest about myself: my self–delusion and my social cowardice.
I should say that it was a way in, not an endpoint. That aspect of Rosie is something I share, but in other ways she is such a very different character from me. I would hate to think people thought that the characters are just eight different personas of the writer. If I can’t use my imagination to create characters outside myself, then I have no business being a writer.
Also, and very importantly, Rosie loves Hugo. I wanted that to be clear, I wanted to make sure that there was no doubt in the reader’s mind about that.
Q. Throughout the book, sexual desire—particularly Connie’s, Hector’s, Richie’s, and Aisha’s—drives your characters to do irrational and sometimes ugly things. It’s only when the smoke clears and the desire dissipates that they can begin to make better choices. As a plot device, does desire always have to be destructive?
I don’t think there are any firm rules about anything in fiction. So no, desire doesn’t always have to be destructive. But, of course, it is often more interesting and more dangerous when it is.
As I have stated above, The Slap is a novel about the contemporary middle class. One of the defining things about this class is that it has been forged in part by the struggles of feminism and the changes around sexuality and sexual freedom. I am a product of those struggles and those changes and I am grateful for that. But such struggles and such changes don’t come without cost and I wanted to be faithful to that experience as well. It seems to me that we shroud much of our talk about family, sex, sexuality, children, love, the whole damn thing, in a rhetoric drawn from gender and sexual politics that too often denies complexity, or reduces human relationships to a contest between victor and victim. I know in my own life that monogamy is hard, that you do betray loved ones and that becoming adult is in part learning to live with the shame of such betrayals. Adolescents have sexuality, women and men have a different relationship with parenting and with biology, sex can be liberating and intoxicating; it can also be destructive and toxic. I wanted each chapter of The Slap to strip away the lies we tell ourselves, to peel away the falseness of much of the rhetoric in our heads.
It is part of how I hope the book works: that it is about getting to the core of a sense of truth and authenticity but recognizing how difficult that process is. That there is never finally an endpoint that it is continual, ongoing: that process is part of being in a long–term relationship, in a marriage, in being someone’s parent and in being someone’s child.
Q. Richie hovers outside much of the action of the book as an outsider character, yet the slap, we later find in the final chapter, probably affects him most dramatically. Why did you choose to end the book with him?
I wanted to end with Richie because he is, as we say here in Oz, a good bloke. I am not being facetious, I mean that seriously. I don’t know if it happens as much in the United States, though I suspect it does, but here in Australia there is a demonization of young people as thuggish, destructive, self–involved, and narcissistic. And if they are not being demonized, then they are being cast in the role of perpetual victims. With Connie and with Richie I wanted to create two decent people who love each other, who, whatever their failures and mistakes, can negotiate a multiracial, multicultural, and sexually fluid world in a way their parents’ generation could not. I know I can be harsh about my generation and I wanted to end on a chapter that suggested that we were not always doomed to selfishness and narcissism. It was also important for me that Richie was the child of a single mother and that he was a functional, good bloke from that background. The notion that everyone from a single–parent home is screwed up is a damn conservative lie.
One thing I am constantly surprised about when people discuss the book is how they don’t talk of the second slap: that is when Tracey, Richie’s mother, slaps him in the final chapter. Maybe it is because whether people like or don’t like the book, if they get that far they know that Tracey loves her son, that it is a slap that comes from a human moment of betrayal, disappointment, and fear and it is something that she quickly apologizes for. This is how it differs from the slap Harry gives Hugo at the beginning of the book. I very consciously bookended the book with both “slaps.”
I also ended with Richie because I wanted to suggest how the selfishness of much of our contemporary lives impacts on children around us. Aisha, Hector, Gary, Rosie, they are all too selfish to see how young people are responding to and interpreting their behavior. That is probably the most damning thing about my generation: we don’t take any responsibility for the consequences of our behavior. I think Manolis does and I hope Connie and Richie will in their futures.
This is a biographical note, and it doesn’t really matter to any reader of the book, but Richie is also a little like how I remember my partner, Wayne, when I met him twenty–seven years ago. He, like Richie, is a good bloke (and a cartographer, hence Richie’s love of maps).
Q. Did some of the consequences of the slap surprise you in the writing process, or did you come to the table having already plotted out all of its ripple effects?
I begin with structure, then sculpt and form the characters, and from then on it is all surprise. I can only speak for myself, but if it weren’t for how the writing continues to always surprise me I don’t think I could keep going. That isn’t to say there isn’t craft and there isn’t work there. Learning to be a writer is learning to be the craftsperson; it is exactly like an apprenticeship but it lasts a lifetime. And part of learning the craft is the sitting down at the desk and putting the hours in.
But the surprise is crucial. Writing is the yellow brick road and the highway to hell and the magic carpet ride and the long and winding road and the stairway to heaven. It has to be all these things, it always has to astonish you—what characters do, where the story goes. If you are not being surprised you are being bored and if you bore yourself you are going to bore your reader.
Q. The family unit is challenged here by so many different forces—friendships, parenting styles, cultural assimilation—and yet by the novel’s end all of the families remain intact. Are they yoked together out of a fundamental connection, blind loyalty, or both?
I think both and a lot more. Though the majority of the relationships in The Slap are based on the traditional heterosexual marriage I hope that reading between the lines one can see that a parallel world is
visible and possible: Anouk’s choices; the family that is Connie and her aunt; the loving non–monogamous marriage of Connie’s bisexual parents; the single–parent family that Richie was raised in. But whatever the relationship and the nature of the family, the question of how to sustain a relationship, how to remain loyal to love is a crucial one. I think it is crucial whatever your sexuality, whatever your identity and your class; it is crucial whether you are a parent or an aunt or uncle.
There is connection, there is blind loyalty, there is shared history; there is also fear, there is inertia. But there is also love and the leap of faith.
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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.
I am at a loss as to why this book has gotten so many negative reviews. After reading the reviews,I did something I have never done before, I tried the sample! I absolutely loved it, bought the book immediately after finishing the sample. I am very much enjoying this book & do recommend it. I had never heard of it until I watched the 1st episode of the miniseries on TV and of course the book is better than the film. M Mason
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.
Pass on this book. It is painfully boring and without a substantial plot.
Depressing and soul-destroying. Just awful. I'm no prude and don't mind profanity, extra-marital sex and drugs in the books I read. Really, I don't. But none of it seemed to serve any purpose here.Oh, and the writing wasn't very good either.No thanks, Mr. Tsiolkas.
A thought-provoking premise which disappointed - despite the story being told by eight different characters, all but one were unsympathetic, which wouldn't in itself be a problem if it weren't for the relentless crudity, misogyny, casual racism and barely suppressed rage exhibited by almost all of them. I think it merits two stars because despite recoiling from most of those involved, the story did carry me along and I read it very quickly to the end.
The cast of characters that populates this book are disgusting humans, I'm so glad they are fictional. The author captured the multiple narrators very well, and kept me reading. You know a book is good when you want to reach in and slap some sense into the characters. As an American I had to ask around and look up some of the Australian slang and racial slurs - But I liked learning new "Bad" words.
What a fabulous read. I can see why this book has so many positive reviews. I enjoyed the insight in to each persons life. It certainly shows how one act can have a ripple effect.
I finally finished this book! You might not believe me, but this has been a long battle and the fact that I managed to finish it should earn me a pat on the back. My book club choose this book for our monthly read almost a year ago and right from the first page I knew that this is not going to be a pleasant read. Don¿t get me wrong, I am not prude and I don¿t mind a bit of bad language if it serves a good purpose in the story, but this book went completely off rails. Right from first paragraph you are bombarded with swearwords left, right and centre, no matter whether it is male or female character, old or young. It is almost as if no one can express themselves unless they swear. I am not sure to which extend is this a portrait of current australian society (I really hope it isn¿t) and to which extend it is the author¿s poor observational skills or/and influence of the people surrounding him. Or maybe the author is just trying too hard and the result is just appalling.Apart the foul language, the book is filled with constant sex, abrupt bursts of unbelievable violence (nope, not talking about the slap itself) and a bit of a story line. Before I started to read this book I was hoping that it would offer a moral discussion about the slap itself, how different generations see it, how different cultures see it etc. but I couldn¿t be more wrong! The book offers a precious little on this and the slap itself is just a minor event in the whole book. I really wonder why the author choose it as a title! Maybe it would be harder to market and sell so many copies if he had chosen a random swear word for the title ¿ which would be much more appropriate if you ask me, because at least you would know that you are willingly buying a garbage.In regards to the characters, well, neither of them is pleasant enough for the reader to care for them. They are a random bunch of greedy, angry, drunken, lecherous, lying, self-obsessed, woman-hating, homophobic and unbelievably racist people. I don¿t think there is anything more to add to this.As I said before, I started this book almost a year ago and managed to read seven out of the eight chapters and had to give up. I couldn¿t take the abuse from the book anymore and it is not like me not to finish a book. But this one was particularly bad. Well, the book was looking at me from my bedside table for so long, that it was about a time to bite the bullet and finish it. And actually the last chapter wasn¿t half as bad, definitely the best out of the book.By the way, this book was a winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2009!!! Honestly, how was that possible is beyond me! Did any of the judges read the book?! I purely refuse to believe that the other books (runner ups) were worse than this one, because that would have been a disastrous year for the commonwealth books! I don¿t approve any mishandling of books or damaging them on purpose but this one would be my first choice to throw in bonfire. I truly believe that future generations wouldn¿t miss much if this book was never written¿You can only imagine my shock when I read in one magazine that the ABC is making a drama series out of this book! First I dismissed it completely, but then I got curious to see how is the ABC going to tackle this material. And to be honest I quite liked the series! I was pleased to see that ABC more or less stayed true to the original material, they just really mellowed the language (you wouldn¿t be able to broadcast the original no matter what time of the night), mellowed the excessive violence and the ever-present sex and made it an interesting series. All the actors played their part very well and I could see that they fit the descriptions from the book to a T.So if you are still curious about The Slap and want to know the full story, then I would recommend to avoid the book like a plague and rent out the ABC series on a DVD.
This was not a pleasant read. I found it coarse, nasty and depressing. The casual use of offensive swear words (the "c" word was mentioned twice on the first page alone)made it uncomfortable to digest.The premise is a good one, and there was a great opportunity for the author to explore how various characters reacted to a moment of violence towards a child. This chance was discarded and we are left with a distasteful parody on life/relationships in the 21st century. Even the "intimate" scenes are unnecessarily crude. About half way through the book I considered abandoning my read, but concluded that it would be wrong to comment on the writing without completing it.Sadly, there was no improvement and the ending was limp and unrewarding. It ultimately left me with the belief that if this is a snapshot of society today, we might as well abandon all hope now. I am far from being a prude, but the casual (and apparently condoned) drug taking and casual sex left me incredulous and frankly..... bored.No recommendation from me I'm afraid and not an author I will search for again.
From fantastic fictionWinner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009, this title is an international bestseller. At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own...The reverberations call into question the relationships between all those who witness it. At a suburban barbecue one afternoon, a man slaps an unruly 3-year-old boy. The boy is not his son. It is a single act of violence, but this one slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it happen. In his controversial, award-winning novel, Christos Tsiolkas presents an apparently harmless domestic incident as seen from eight very different perspectives. The result is an unflinching interrogation of our lives today; of the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century, a deeply thought-provoking novel about boundaries and their limits...I don¿t like giving up on a book but with this one I did. One reason why was because of it¿s coarseness. I¿m not a prude but I didn¿t enjoy the use of the C word, with it appearing twice on the first page. I didn¿t like Hector but did feel that the coarseness suited his character. The second reason I gave up was because at the end of the second chapter I felt the book was doing nothing for what so ever and when I have a library with well over two hundred books waiting to be read I felt I was wasting my time. There has been mixed reviews on the net about this book, some loving it and some hating it, with comparisons to `The Birthing House¿ as in when you have finished it you think well what a waste of time.Would I recommend this book: Well I didn¿t finish it so I can¿t say but I would say give it a try and see for yourself.
I loved the way the characters are entwined - they seemed very real - I felt I could know those people.
The front cover and the back flap set you up for a shock: A man at a barbecue slaps a child¿not his own, or somesuch. How can you be shocked when you already know it¿s going to happen? Well, that¿s a problem with the marketing not the writing or the story, which were pretty good. What I liked is that the book is about filters: the filters through which individuals see themselves, each other and shared events. Tsiolkas takes on a large task: to get inside the heads of several very different Melbourners(?), Melbournians(?), Melbourwegians(?) (who almost could have been urban and suburban Americans) in order to shine a spotlight on the culture in which they live. He attempts, and succeeds I think, to illuminate the jarring culture clash between those of disparate backgrounds¿gender, ethnicity, and age, of course, but also the clash between value systems. Each chapter is from the sequential third-person p-o-v of a person at the barbecue who witnessed The Slap, and what is really cool about that mechanism is that you can look at certain characters through their own eyes and through the eyes of those around them. Ergo, Filters. Each starring character seems to represent an archetype, which is not a criticism, but you are able to figure out his ¿type¿ pretty easily. Each story is interesting, mostly, and The Slap is a minor event to most of them, but through each personal reaction to what happened, a value system is revealed. One character is a Sex and the City type who resents the changes that motherhood has made in her best friends. Another is an elderly Greek immigrant baffled and enraged by the attitudes of the women around him. Another is the, I imagine controversial, mother of the 3-year-old who got slapped. And, also the man who slapped the child, who has some, umm...interesting attitudes himself. Some characters feel the undisciplined child deserved what he got, even if they don¿t admit it. Some feel fiercely protective of the boy. Several are disgusted by the child¿s parents and their lack of discipline and failure to move themselves up society¿s ladder. A few are apathetic. Not a few are intensely self-involved to the point of narcissism.If The Slap itself is not shocking, what may be are the lives of the characters as they gradually revealed. You become privy to the secrets that the characters hold, to their pride and insecurity, to the lies they believe, to rage that they dare not express, the shameful ways they demean themselves, the dreams they¿ve abandoned. If I do have a criticism, it is that the book at times seems superficial, but the picture it paints is vivid. I myself had a strong reaction to most of the characters, and a very definite opinion on The Slap as it occurred, but I¿m not going to give myself away
I really, really wanted to like this book. The hype, the "controversy", the Mann longlist - all pointed to a winner. No.First of all - does no one have an editor these days. This book was almost 500 pages - and 200 of them were not needed!!! The premise or should I say the advertisement/blurb gave it promise: "at a party, a man slaps a child not his own." Great, I thought...told from 8 different perspectives - super, I thought like Rashamon. No, wrong again.All 8 "characters" were unlikeable. Really nasty folks. Too rich, too indulgent, no morals, jaded, no internal voice, selfish, they all love to curse (and I am not easily offended, but honestly, how many times do we need to hear the word c*&t used? Boring!)You really did not get to understand what makes any of them tick - male or female. There backstory just wasn't there - and so I could not relate to them.Yeah, yeah, yeah...Australia is the new melting pot where classes, races, immigrants, etc all get together. Isn't the 20th C nasty with drugs and drink, where are our traditions and our family values. Not literature.
In this novel a lot of people have extra-marital sex and somewhere in the middle of it a badly behaved boy gets slapped. It often felt as though the title and the question on the cover (`whose side are you on?¿) were misleading, as for long stretches of time the issue of slapping was a background issue at best, and questions about ageing and homosexuality seemed higher on the author¿s agenda. To give the book its due, the characters are many and varied, they come from all walks of life, all cultures, all socio-economic brackets, and the full spectrum of sexuality is covered. It seemed there was an intention to consider attitudes to corporal punishment and whether age, culture or traditions of tolerance are contributing factors. I didn¿t feel the debate on smacking children was advanced much, the plot seeming to support the idea that adults who smack children are dangerous, violent people. The child involved was asking for some kind of chastisement and I suspect many readers would (like me) secretly think he got what was coming to him, but there was little to empathise with in the character of the `slapper¿. The only likeable character who refused to condemn him was Anouk, who made one of the novel¿s more astute observations (`This is not the only way to be a parent, but it is the only way this world now allows¿). I would have preferred more in the way of reasoned debate, and perhaps less detail about characters¿ random to-ings and fro-ings and gratuitous references to the shape of Hector¿s todger.In all, a long book that will appeal to people who like their books long and in-depth and a little bit soapy, but beware it¿s not exactly what it initially seems to be.
Strong book about interconnected families and a terrible little brat with a disturbed mother -- I don't know how else you'd describe a woman who's nursing a 3-year-old. But I kept getting the men in the story confused because everyone has the same voice, and I got tired of the F word.
an powerful novel, with interesting real characters. I was distrupted by this novel, I thought the writing was great the character were very real. trouble is I didn't admire them very much. I thought, except for one very minor charater, they were self centered. while the two teenagers that is understandable, the adults only really cared about themselves
The Slap by Christos Tsiolka begins at an afternoon barbecue in suburban Australia. Family, friends of family and their children gather together with the usual blend of affection and affectation. Everyone gets along until three-year-old Hugo threatens another child with a cricket bat. The threatened child's father, Harry, takes the bat away only to be kicked by Hugo whom he then slaps. Once. The other children are relieved that an adult has finally disciplined Hugo who has been spoiling their fun all afternoon. Some of the adults quietly agree while the rest are horrified at Harry's sudden violence. The police are called. Charges are filed. The repercussions of Harry's action are both long lasting and devastating.And they make for a fascinating read that kept me up past my bedtime. Mr. Tsiolkas is interested in how his characters react to what Harry has done. While the book moves forward in a traditional linear fashion, showing what happens to those at the party, the narrator shifts focus from one character to another when the chapters change. We begin with Hector, the barbecue's host, who does not really like either Hugo or Harry. Hugo is the son of his wife's good friend Roxie. Hector believes Hugo is spoiled, raised by parents who don't know what they're doing. His mother is still breast feeding Hugo at age three. Hugo's father, Gary, gets drunk every chance he can. The slapper, Harry, is Hector's brother-in-law, tolerated because he is family but no more admirable than Gary. Hector knows Harry should not have hit a child, but he also believes Roxie and Gary go too far when they press charges. Already most readers will have taken a position of their own, sure that they are correct. ( Be honest, you have haven't you?) How can the morality of such an action be anything but clear cut?However, as the narrative shifts from character to character, the reader is forced to reconsider what happened at the barbecue. Through the mixture of characters, Mr. Tsiolkas gives us many points of view, from that of first generation Greek immigrants, to native Australians both white and Aboriginal, from teenagers to grandfathers. Of course everyone brings their own baggage to the table, including the reader. Mr. Tsiolkas lets none of us off the hook easily. Part of what makes The Slap such a compelling read is the way the reader is made uncomfortable. You think you know enough to make a judgement, but wait, what about this? Don't you need to consider what this character is like or what this other character has done in the past?
KindleA notorious book that's been going the rounds around bookgroups - what happens if someone slaps someone else's child at a barbeque? The repercussions of this event reverberate through a friendship/kinship group which represents a handily wide range of Australian ethnicities and experiences. So far so good, but unfortunately, although it's written from 8 different viewpoints, the narrative voices of all but the Greek grandfather (and perhaps the last teenager) are too undifferentiated, and the narratives are full of swearing (which I don't mind, although some will - but the same way of swearing for all these different people?) and rather tedious and misogynistic sex scenes, which I have to admit did put me off a bit.
Very disturbing at times, thought provoking and interesting. Ultimately, not a likeable book. I would not recommend it.
Wow. Just wow. That said, this is a book that is bound to make a lot of people uncomfortable. I winced at a lot of the casual sexual attitudes/behavior, the drugs, the racist/sexist comments -- and then I realized that this is fiction and also that very few of the things that made me uncomfortable were actually untrue of real people in real life. (I have to admit that a few of these things I'm guilty of in some way -- like Anouk's flashes of furious temper.) And that's the authors genius (yes, you got that word right...): he has been able to capture the ugly aspects of human nature, as well as the good stuff about families and friends, good stuff that rarely comes in nice neat tidy packages. It's as if the lid has been lifted off an ant farm, and we see all the secret thoughts of the eight characters through whom Tsiolkas spins his tale. The story starts with a slap, as everyone who is considering reading this book probably is aware -- the slap lands on the cheek of a misbehaving three-year-old at a suburban BBQ. That blow has consequences that richochet throughout the circle of friends and family, but the events that follow in the lives of those affected aren't always tied directly to the slap -- the slap forces them, indirectly, to re-evaluate many other things in their lives. The characters range from a teenage girl and her close friend, a teenage boy, all the way up to an aging Greek patriarch, and include the mother of the slapped child and the wife of the "slapper". Every one of those is pitch perfect. The author is a man, and yet he writes more compelling and real female characters -- subtle, nuanced -- than I can recall reading before in a novel by a male author. He writes equally vividly about Aisha's views of Anouk (a married woman's views of her single friend's supposed attitude to children) and of Anouk's reaction to those ideas -- forcing the reader to understand there are no easy answers in life's most pressing questions. This is not a book to read if you need to identify with a character, or need comforting stories. None of these individuals are altogether admirable; many make choices that someone will disagree with. And yet at the same time, they all emerge as real and vivid, and perhaps more sympathetic because of their flaws. (And yes, this will force you to think about child-rearing these days, but that is just the tip of a very large iceberg.) There are great, vivid characters, living ordinary lives and reaching the kind of routine epiphanies that we all experience.In short -- read this book.
Hector and Aisha are a successful fortysomething married couple with two children living in suburban Melbourne, who are hosting a weekend barbecue for friends, colleagues and family. They are typical, yet unique; Hector is a successful manager born to Greek immigrants to Australia, and Aisha is a veterinarian of Indian descent. Both are stunningly attractive, and are quite proud and aware of their physical appearance. On the surface, Hector and Aisha appear to be a model and staid middle class couple.Friends and family come over; all are middle class, and represent the diversity of cultures that populate this international city. The adults talk amiably and the kids play nicely ¿ at first. The men and women begin to bicker, and so do the kids. One of the boys, a three year old who is still breast fed by his dippy Aussie mother and allowed to express himself without fear of punishment, begins to fight with the other kids and destroy the toys that they are playing with. His behavior spirals out of control, and one of the adults, who is not related to him, slaps him in a pique of anger. The boy isn't seriously hurt, but his parents are incensed, and threaten to sue the "assailant". The party abruptly ends, as the inebriated adults bicker and take sides with each other.The novel explores the reactions of several of the adults and one teenager who attended the party to the slap. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of one of the characters, and we learn about their dissatisfied lives, motivations, and secret desires. Each is selfish, unfaithful and untrustworthy, terribly flawed and dislikable, but 'human, all too human'.It is all too easy for the reader to reject and dismiss these characters, with their foul language, use of drugs and alcohol, and the abysmal way in which they raise their children. We're not like that, and we would never associate with people like this. However, these are real people, and their desires are not that much different from the rest of us, except that they act on them whereas we might ¿ might ¿ restrain ourselves. Like us, they bemoan the selfishness and boorish behavior of the current generation of children and teenagers, while ignoring the reality that our own self-absorbed attitudes are the main cause of this.The Slap is an unblinking look into the lives of real people, which will make the average reader squirm with discomfort and disbelief. However, Tsiolkas effectively removes the veneer of middle class life, and his indictment of the failings of our consumer driven, me first Western societies is a worthwhile contribution that should be widely read and heeded.
There are different levels of knowing a character in a story. There¿s the upper level¿where you know what actions a character takes ¿ what happens to a character. There¿s the next level, where you know many of the character¿s thoughts and start to know how s/he is feeling, getting some sense of what the person might do next. And then there is the level that is reached in ¿The Slap¿. The reader knows what the characters do, how they feel¿and what they really think. By that I mean even those nasty, fleeting thoughts that one can¿t control and that one rarely acts on¿but that have settled down in the murky depths of our animal souls.I am glad I read this book ¿ it was interesting how my opinions changed of the eight characters the reader is given full access to as I experienced more of their thoughts and actions. In all cases but two, I went from liking them or only mildly disliking them to thinking they were truly awful people. Well drawn and realistic people, which almost made me like them even less.The pivot point of the book is right there in the title ¿ the slap that happens at a barbeque. Friends and family gather for what promises to be a pleasant evening, too much food but only the usual everyday human dramas¿when everything changes. As the cover says, ¿a man slaps a child who is not his own¿¿Each character has his or her own ties to the man and to the child, has their own opinion of the right and wrong of what happened. While not all of their lives are as deeply affected by the act and by the events that follow ¿ they are all touched by this unexpected and shocking event.The reader enters every crevice of the minds of these eight characters, the man who slapped the child, the child¿s mother, the couple at whose home the incident happened and that man¿s father and the woman¿s friend and the two young adults that attended the barbeque. We learn about their lives and their pasts, how they came to be a part of this story, and how they are connected to the other characters.Manolis, an older man, considers what he would do if his child had been the one involved. ¿I¿d be furious. But if Sava was going to hit his child I¿d understand. I¿d take an apology and that would be it. Finished. Maybe I¿d punch him a few times. We¿d deal with it like men, not like animals¿¿Aisha and Hector find themselves examining their marriage as they deal with the fact that his cousin slapped her friend¿s child at their home. Each has different loyalties, different responses to the event. ¿There was a humming in her ear that was, she was sure of it, the sound of the universe spinning around and around, ready to fling both of them off into an orbit, one in which they either surrendered finally to each other or were forever flung apart. They both discussed their longing for freedom, for a life without a spouse, a life not dictated to by the whims, joys, petty angers and obsessions of another.¿I was very surprised about how my feelings about the characters changed the further I read. Those I might be most likely to identify with, given my life, turned out to be some one the ones I disliked the most. And the choices of many of the characters, whether they are about their reactions to the slap, their sexual choices, their drug use¿shocked me.This was such an interesting character study, to, of daily middle class life. True, it is set in Australia, and not the U.S. where I live, but there are far more similarities than differences.What I took from this was more about the middle-class, suburban life of the twenty-first century. Behind the mask of the McMansions and manicured lawns, lies something uglier, something hopeless, something deeper than the latest purchases and who¿s driving the newest car. Something that comes to light with a disquieting smack.
I loved this book. I highly recommend it.It takes place in Melbourne, Australia. It starts off at a barbeque at Aisha and Hector's home. There are friends and family about. One obnoxious little boy is slapped by an adult that is not his parent. Who was right, who was wrong, whose side do you take? Who is your family? What does friendship mean? What sacrifices do you make for them? What is just too much to ask of someone?Read it!
Before I waste the time of all those who consider themselves sensitive readers, let me delineate some of the reasons this book may not be for you:1.If you are easily offended by crude language, steer clear of this one. (And by crude language I mean very, very crude and offensive; the eff word was on just about every page and I have to wonder if Australians really use a certain ¿c¿ word to describe people of both sexes with regularity.)2.If the denigration of women is something you can¿t stomach, you may do well to choose another literary effort.3.If the idea of characters who thumb their nose at morality and monogamy isn¿t your cup of tea, leave this book on the shelf.4.This book was just this side of porn. I had to fly through certain descriptions that were just too graphic for my taste.That said, the book was an interesting study of characters. If you haven¿t heard about the premise of this book, it is right there on the cover: ¿At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own¿¿ Every chapter in the book is devoted to one character that was at the barbecue and witnessed the incident and provides a glimpse into that character¿s life, feelings, reaction to the incident and sex life.It was a book of great possibilities and you get an inkling of how talented a writer Tsiolkas is, but he badly needed an editor and the first 200 pages were deadly boring, mostly because he gave us, for the most part, dialogue with very little narrative. I don¿t appreciate that kind of writing. This will give you an idea (the characters are talking about the difference between seeing a movie in a theater and downloading it onto a jegundus TV at home):¿Van snorted and lit a cigarette. `Right, so I pay #**#!!# thirty bucks for me and Jia to see a film, another !!#**#&! thirty bucks for popcorn and drinks, and then have some doped-out kid usher me to a seat that some sweaty-**##!! mf has been sitting in for hours so I can watch a movie that I could have downloaded for myself for free.¿ Van shook his head in disbelief. `I hate the *#!!#** movies.¿ He stared at Hector combatively.¿ (Page 119)I wanted to drop this book so many times, but I persevered, thinking there was going to be a pay-off, somewhere along the way. I wasn¿t bored after those first 200 pages, just waiting for something to happen. But, alas, much anticipation but no real reward. What exactly did the Booker judges see in this one? I¿ve decide that they saw a characterization of everyday Australian lives at different income and status levels within the middle class. The seediness and lack of morals of the characters just didn¿t do it for me. I did not come to love, admire or even like any of them. Maybe I¿m just a naïve reader, unable to appreciate a raw, honest interpretation of everyday life on the streets of Australia. Anyway, I can¿t really recommend this one.