The Slap: A Novel by Christos Tsiolkas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wavered for a long time about whether to give "The Slap" 3 or 4 stars. I ultimately decided on 4 because Tsiolkas did the impossible: kept me reading a book in which I detested nearly all of the characters. I usually wouldn't continue reading such a novel, but I think it's a testament to the writer's craft that not only did I keep reading, this was a library copy and I read it in the bathtub. Risky!
I like the way Tsiolkas unveiled more information as the novel went on. The villains turn out to not be quite as evil, the semi-empathetic characters not as virtuous as one thinks. His pacing and layering made this a fantastic read for me.
But, I have another complaint: in addition to hating these characters, I took issue with what appears to be Tsiolkas' pessimistic, snarky worldview. For example, nearly every character abuses prescription or illegal drugs, or engages in unhealthy sex just to get through life, and I couldn't help but feel this Tsiolkas agreeing that you have to numb out like this just to get through life. I don't subscribe to that worldview.
And speaking of sex, boo to Tsiolkas for crummy sex: there is tons of sex in "The Slap," and none of it is the slightest bit erotic or sexy. In fact, Tsiolkas was nominated -- rightfully so -- for the "Bad Sex in Fiction Award" for this book in 2010. I'd hate to read how bad the sex was in the book that one if "The Slap" lost to it!
All told, this book sparked a very lively discussion in my multi-national book group. The two Australians present told us it was an authentic presentation of life there, especially of the Greek community. Who knew that Oz has the largest Greek population outside of Greece?
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