The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

The Slap is a multi-award winning novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. The story revolves around an incident at a barbecue attended by the family and friends of Hector and Aisha. What starts as a normal weekend get together ends with Harry, Hector’s cousin, slapping a child that it not his own. Hugo is the child of Aisha’s friends, Gary and Rosie, he is an toddler who is naughty, undisciplined by his hippy parents and after spending a day of tantrum throwing and screaming for his own way he goes to hit Harry’s son Rocco. But before he can Harry steps forward and slaps him, shocking all the guests.

Rosie and Gary are outraged that someone would hit their child and immediately call the police and press charges. This action, as much as the slap itself, divides the group of friends. Some believe that there is no justification for ever hitting a child and that Harry should be punished. Others believe that Hugo is a brat that needed to be disciplined by someone – anyone – as his parents are not willing to do so.

The story then follows each of these characters and witnesses of the slap. Each character has a chapter dedicated to them, looking at how they feel about the situation and the current troubles going on in their own lives.

I picked up this novel as it reminded me of an Ian McEwan novel. Taking one small event and staging a story around it. A premise that I really like.

This novel takes an honest look at suburban life. At married life. A look I did not like. Firstly, all the characters were cheating on their significant others and this was accepted as quite normal. Ok for some maybe, but that conflicts with my views on marriage and I was unwilling to accept that this was just a normal part of married life. Sorry. Maybe I am just naive.

Secondly, all the teenagers in the book were doing drugs and drinking alcohol with the consent of their parents… is that normal in middle class Melbourne? I didn’t grow up their so I don’t know but in my experience and that of my friends, parents normally tell you NOT to take drugs. The try and school you in responsible drinking (when of the appropriate age).

As for the crux of the story, the slap, Hugo is bratty and rude and I really couldn’t feel sorry for him. I agree with some of the other characters in this book, the kid needed a good slap! If only his parents did their job properly and raised a decent human being, then none of this would have happened! Harsh. I know. But the characters of Hugo and his parents just really angered me.

Rosie was still breastfeeding Hugo at four years old, if he wanted some milk he would ask for “some boobie”. She kept referring to the day that Hugo got slapped as the day he was “bashed” and then she went ahead and pressed charges against Harry and demanded that he be thrown in goal. ARG ARG ARG.You stupid woman. What ever happened to the man of the family settling a dispute such as this with some strong words and a fist. Much better way to do it if you ask me.

So maybe this novel DID have the intended effect. I had to put it down on several occasions just because Rosie and her bratty child were making me so mad. Not only them though. You sure can tell a man of Greek heritage wrote this book. All the Greek men in this book were described as Adonises. Their wives worshiped then and thought they were the hottest men on the planet. They were all smooth talkers and had women swooning over them. Ha! In your dreams Mister.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book. It just annoyed me too much for me to like it. Which, in itself, could be seen as a sign of a well written story. You may like this book if you like Ian McEwan or stories of modern day Australia.

Rating 3/5
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