By Christos Tsiolkas
From the library
The Slap is the story of a group of friends whose lives are altered by a single summer barbeque. Hector and Aisha hold a party for their friends and family. When little Hugo’s temper gets out of hand, Hector’s cousin Harry slaps the child. Gary and Rosie, Hugo’s furious parents, charge him with assault. The relationships between friends, family, and spouses are forever altered.
This novel is divided into eight chapters, and each one is told from the point of view of a different character. This was an unexpectedly successful approach. While I was initially worried that it would be confusing and sudden, author Christos Tsiolkas gave each character a good story arc so that the reader felt a sense of closure when each character’s chapter was done. Tsiolkas brings a variety of characters to life on these pages, from an elderly man confronting his mortality to teenagers having their first serious relationships.
That being said, the word to best describe this novel is gratuitous. To me, it seemed extremely unrealistic for so many people to casually do drugs and have affairs so often. I know that people do drugs. When a group of teenagers shoot up before a concert, I moved right along. When one of the fathers is doing speed in the bathroom during the barbeque, I found it a bit less authentic. And of course, I know it to be true that people have sex, both within a marriage and with people they barely know. However, to have almost every character with both their spouse and then a lover within fifty pages just seemed like overkill. It seemed inauthentic and forced.
The biggest problem in this novel is the complete lack of maturity in any of the adult characters. Aisha eventually has a major revelation about her husband. “He was a child. He was a child every time he did not get his own way.” This seems to be true for practically every character we meet in this book. None of them have any concept of how adult relationships work, of putting your child's or partner’s needs over your own, of compromising with others, or of having a civil response when things do not go their way. Again, while I could certainly understand this in some characters, witnessing this childishness in all of the so-called adult characters became annoying rather quickly.
The Slap is a well-written book. Mr. Tsiolkas deftly brings you inside the minds of many different characters, each dealing with problems large and small. Some, such as teenage Richie and elderly Manolis, will truly make you feel for them and their situations. Unfortunately the majority of characters are whiny, self-centered, and obsessed with sex. This novel takes a very hard look at the dark realities of relationships, the things that change them forever, and the ways that they endure.