Yes, it's quite shocking and visceral. Yes, the characters are unlikeable. But I think it's quite an accurate portrait of modern suburban society in maybe any Westernised city in the world. Who knows what really goes on behind those curtains, at those barbecues? What people are really thinking while they're being outwardly polite to you?
People ARE casually racist, people swear, people have bad sex, people commit adultery and have abortions.
I found it quite fascinating as a portrait of multiracial Australia, I have never been to Australia and I guess my idea of Melbourne comes from Neighbours, where everyone is white Anglo-Saxon (or at least they were when I used to watch it). This book certainly casts Neighbours in a whole new light...
Ok so some of the stereotypes were a little overdone, particularly the extended breastfeeding mother. At first I baulked at the crude way she was criticised, but people really do think things like that about women who breastfeed toddlers (who by the way don't always have dysfunctional children!). Yet the chapter about Rosie was so well drawn in the way it explained her decisions and background. I also really liked the chapter about Manolis (the old Greek dad), which was quite poignant. Harry was horrible, Aisha was shallow, Hector wasn't much better - but don't we all know people like that?
I think it's well written, funny and gripping. And I don't read "trash" novels, I read good stuff generally, it's taken me a few years to get round to this one.