I don’t really want to spend too much time reviewing The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. A Common Reader has really said it all. I hated reading it, felt angry, disappointed, wondered how someone with clear writing talents could produce such nasty unlikeable characters and be so descriptive about the minutia of ugliness. The book is full of awful relationships, lots and lots of unpleasant sex scenes, short of trying to be titillating, women who appear to thoroughly enjoy being dominated by men and play at being their ‘whores’ apparently considering that they deserve it, whatever that means in these circumstances, or simply enjoy being nearly raped. Actually, even the writing was not very good – far too descriptive and boring.
The premise of the book is a nice one: at a family and friends barbecue party someone slaps someone else’s child and the repercussions reverberate throughout the rest of the book, not in terms of discussing the rights or wrongs of slapping a child, but rather, in how the outcomes affect each and everyone of the characters because of taking one side or the other. The book is about how this one particular action affects the relationships between a family and their friends. There are undercurrents of race and immigration, of the interactions between the different ethnic groups in modern-day Australia (Greeks, Aborigenes, Indian, white Australians, and some more). However, I just cannot imagine that many Australians, whatever ethnic group they belong to, are happy with this portrayal of their characteristics.
It seems, however, that what Tsiolkas has managed to do with this book and this kind of writing is to create a real divide between those readers (and reviewers) who like the book and those who immensely dislike it, the way the story unfolds and the way in which it is written. I just don’t understand how it ever got to be included on a Booker Prize longlist!
So, that’s my rant – I don’t often persevere with a book that I dislike, but somehow felt I needed to get to the end of it in order to understand why it was considered worthy of the longlist. Waste of time!