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The Slap: A Novel Paperback – April 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although this is Australian author Tsiolkas’ fourth novel, it is the first to be published in the U.S. With its raw style, liberal use of profanity and racial epithets, and laserlike focus on the travails of suburban life, it is a down-and-dirty version of Tom Perrotta’s best-selling Little Children (2004). At a barbecue in a Melbourne suburb, a man loses his temper and slaps the child of the host’s friends. This incident unleashes a slew of divisive opinions, pitting friends and families against each other as the child’s parents take the man to court. Told from eight different viewpoints, the novel also deftly fills in disparate backstories encompassing young and old, single and married, gay and straight, as well as depicting how multiculturalism is increasingly impacting the traditional Aussie ethos. For good measure, the author also throws in male vanity, infidelity, and homophobia. Tsiolkas’ in-your-face style is sure to alienate some readers—the child’s parents, for example, are among the book’s most unlikable characters—but his novel, which won the 2009 Commonwealth Prize, fairly radiates with vitality as it depicts the messy complications of family life. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“Tsiolkas is a hard-edged, powerful writer….The novel transcends both suburban Melbourne and the Australian continent, leaving us exhausted but gasping with admiration.” - Washington Post“This astute exploration of suburban aspirations and failings . . . . vividly demonstrates the wide-ranging effects of a single moment’s rash decision. . . . Beyond simply igniting the plot, the fateful slap draws attention to generational and philosophical differences regarding family life and the complex political, social, and ethnic milieu of contemporary Australia.” - Publishers Weekly“Radiates with vitality as it depicts the messy complications of family life.” - Booklist“Complex and multilayered. …intertwined lives and slowly revealed connections make for a singular reading experience.” - Library Journal“Wildly energetic and fearless, thrillingly about our lives now.” - Helen Garner, author of The Spare Room“A gripping suburban fable.” - Men’s Style
“Strikingly tender . . . it claws into you with its freshness and truth.” - Sydney Morning Herald

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Patterson on August 21, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has occasioned a lot of controversy with many people thinking that it is misogynistic. It's overly simplistic to see this story as full of misogyny, but even if the charge held, novelists are under no obligation to be politically correct.

This is in many ways an old fashioned novel. It has a beginning, middle and an end.
Christos Tsiolkas is giving us his version of social reality and satirizing the concerns of the middle class of the 21st century. Maybe there's more cursing and sex than readers of literary novels like, but it's not gratuitous cursing and sex. It does contribute to the picture he paints of his characters. The men and women are ambivalent about one another. The characters are not always easy to like, but Mr. Tsoilkas helps us understand them.

I found Rosie, the indulgent mother of the 4 year child that is slapped, only too believable. Her child menaces an older child with a baseball bat and later in the novel spits on an elderly man out of pure malice and--that most insidious of 21st century diseases--entitlement Yet Rosie oblivious to her son's faults, is walking around with dirty hair explaining to a friend that she and her husband are trying to teach him about water conservation. But I felt sorry for her as well. She is isolated from her narcissistic mother and overly protective of her difficult husband and her young son, but enraged when her friends seem to favor family loyalties over loyalty to her.

One of the more sympathetic characters in the book is Manoli the elderly uncle of he man who delivers the slap. Manoli struggles to understand why his daughter-in-law would side with Rosie, rather than with her family.
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70 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Sekou Shaffer on June 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read constantly. I read for information, for enlightenment, for pleasure. I read anywhere from 2 to 5 books a month, and have for some 45+ years. Never have I been moved to find a forum in which to voice my complete amazement with how utterly awful a book has been.

I was excited, as I often am, when I saw this title. As a person who shamelessly admits to sometimes judging a book by it's cover, I own to liking the look of the book, and the title just jumped out at Me. "The Slap"... Intriguing. The synopsis -- Someone slaps a child who is not their own... Oooh..., you've got Me.

A more apt title would have been "Slaps All Around", which is what I wanted to do to every character -- AND myself -- less than 40 pages in. If this author won an award that wasn't presented by his mother after a panel of close family members voted on a ballot with this single book as the entry, then I am stunned.

How can the entire premise of a book play such a minor role in the ENTIRE BOOK!? How do you manage to write a story with so many characters telling "their story" from multiple vantage points, and yet do so in such a way that the reader cares about NONE of them -- not the children, not the adults, not the seniors, not the dead, not the dying... No One. I, literally, got up from reading this book, logged onto my computer, and sought out reviews because I wanted to make sure I wasn't somehow missing something. I needed reassurance that my reading tastes had not all of a sudden left Me, and I couldn't recognize a good story, or good writing when I read it! And, by the way, for those who felt that this author was a "good writer" -- Read more.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lauren S. Kahn on August 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Personally, I think much of the negativity is a result of the raw language that runs through much of this novel. I bought it when I was in Melbourne and went to the State Library. I asked the guy running the bookstore there to recommend a fiction book that would show some insight on Australian culture. This one does that in a way that may be offensive to some because every sin you can imagine and a lot of bad language runs through the book. It is wise to note that Australians (especially working class Australians) do overuse curse words in a way many Americans would find offensive. I do not claim to be an expert with two (albeit much more lengthy and intense than normal) trips down under. However, much of what Tsiolkas has to say could easily apply to the American family. The high divorce rate, stress, lack of jobs for those without fancy educational credentials (and lack of jobs for those with them), breakdown of religious strictures, etc., is in the US as well as Australia. This book has a lot to say about Australian culture--and perhaps American culture as well. It is provocative and you should read it. The book has been highly received in Australia--and there is a reason for that. It has a lot to say. So, ignore the language you don't like and go and read it.

I only write reviews occasionally (although I read at least 100 books a year). I felt compelled to put this one up when I saw all the negative opinions here. This book may be a watershed. A must read for sure.
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85 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Cecily on June 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Short version: interesting concept, but don't bother unless you like dark, harsh, unloveable characters and can put up with excessively coarse language and sex scenes.

Christos Tsiolkas has won a couple of awards for this book, which centres around an Australian suburban BBQ at which an adult slaps someone else's child. When I first heard about this, I loved the idea, but the way Tsiolkas put it together left a lot to be desired for me.

¡Issues
Let's see... teenage sexuality, Muslim conversion, racism, child rearing, breastfeeding, assault and child abuse, adultery, drug taking, alcoholism, selling out to popular culture, family, role of parents, multiculturalism, John Howard's policies, Aboriginality...

It's as if Tsolkias couldn't just pick one issue to deal with. He packed this book full of all Australia's most wanted. It's a book club dream, and there will be plenty to talk about, but it's too much for me.

In places it feels as if Tsolkias is writing about issues, rather than writing a story. I don't mind a novel that delves into themes and problems, but when they overcome the story, I'd prefer it to be an essay or sermon.

¡Sex and drugs
When does a book get pornographic? There were at least 8 characters, and each of them had extremely well-described sex at least once. I'm not against a bit of nookie when it adds to the story, but this was over the top. It was definitely written from a man's point of view too - very phallus-centric.

And drugs. Frankly, I'm not sure that a father of two would be scoring speed at his family BBQ, and then getting through the afternoon without even his wife noticing that he was high.
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