The Slap

I read 'The Slap' by Christos Tsiolkas when we were on holidays in July. I had been looking forward to it because the premise of the book grabbed me.

The blurb on the back of the book says "At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own". The boy is three, is throwing a tantrum, is threatening to hurt an older child and the older child's father slaps him.

The rest of the book intertwines the stories of eight people at the barbecue with how they respond to 'the slap'.

I'm often fascinated by the way one set of parents can believe their strategy is entirely 'correct', while another set of parents can approach a similar issue with a directly contrasting approach. These scenarios often result in adults not being able to spend time together because they approach parenting so differently.

'The Slap' has plenty examples of these scenarios. Close, long-term friendships are threatened as the mother of the child who has been slapped takes the man to court.

I was fascinated by Rosie, the mother of the child who was slapped. She has a very intense relationship with her son. Rosie had a complicated birth followed by six months of PND. On the brink of walking out and leaving her son she realises that can't do it.

"From now on, until he can walk away from you, your life means nothing - his life is all that matters. It was then that she had stepped back and shut the door. She shut out the street, the world. She had picked up the screaming baby and hugged it close. Hugo, Hugo, it's alright, she whispered. It's going to be fine. I'm here. He was the focus, he was the centre, he possessed her body. She lost herself in him".

Overall though, I was a bit disappointed. The majority of the characters are horrible people. Mostly language doesn't bother me that much, but the language was consistently awful. I would find it hard to spend a lot of time with people who spoke like this in real life. Another problem for me was that each character had some issue with sex. I felt this was a weakness because it was like the author was working down a list of of things each of his eight characters needed to have. "Yucky sex story/issue/scenario" TICK.

As I read this book I thought of times when other parents have had 'words' to my kids about something that they obviously felt was an issue and I haven't really been that fussed about. It's tricky to not feel irritated. But I'd have to feel pretty annoyed to lose a friendship over it, let alone take someone to court!!


kwillo said…
Hi Jenny,
I too was fascinated by the premise so reserved 'The Slap' from the library and picked it up last week. I didn't make it past page 3. Glad to have read your review just now - I don't think I could have coped with more bad language/ yucky relationships etc - I had wondered if it changed part way in but obviously not!!
Next book I've reserved is 'The Lacuna', have you read that? I enjoyed 'The Poisonwood Bible' so we'll see how this one goes!
Karen W xx

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