At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.
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.
This is a big, muscular, sprawling brawl of a novel that sweeps its characters and the reader up into its violence, taking with it friendships and shattered dreams. It takes a broad slice of Australian suburban life - the real one, not he media driven Neighbor's version of it- and exposes all its dirty little secrets. Its subject is us - you and me - and our attitudes, beliefs, national myths and collective fears. It is about our prejudices, petty hatreds and self-obsession, but most of all, it is about love and devotion to family.
Imagine, a novel with the rights of the child as its central theme. We are the inheritors of generations of violence against us as children. In the sixties, they were still bashing little children at primary school. I may have only been 8 or 9 when the sadistic bastards lined a row of boys up every morning for the cuts, or the cane, but it went in there - you don;t forget that kind of thing. Thankfully, it had the opposite effect on me and turned me into a rabid snarling anti-establishment anti-authority screaming street marching banshee. But you get that if you use violence on the wrong people. But some people simply internalise it and carry it around with them, only to re-inflict that repressed fear and loathing onto those they love the most. That is generally the pattern; rape, incest, pedophelia, domestic violence and even just a slap to punish a kid - all this stuff, sadly, operates within the family unit. That a slap is at the centre of this story begs the bigger question - where does it stop and where do we draw the line?
This book cements Tsiolkas' reputation as one of our best and brightest writers.
Go for it chaps.
To the bookshop!