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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and thought provoking
I wasn't a big fan of Tsiolkas' earlier book, The Slap, I found it quite cold. I probably wouldn't have read this novel if I hadn't been sent an ARC. But I would have missed out.

As a teenager Danny is full of talent and potential but through arrogance, pride and anger he sabotages his own chances of becoming an Olympic swimmer. He's exiled from the heaven of...
Published 6 months ago by Cam

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Barracuda
Barracuda is the story of Danny Kelly, a working class boy who attends a private school in Australia on a swimming scholarship. Danny is not popular and feels an outsider. The only way he can climb the "class ladder" and overcome the bullying is by succeeding in the pool and being the best. Danny truly believes in himself and wants to pursue his dream to get an Olympic...
Published 6 months ago by Ninnytendo


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Barracuda, 6 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Kindle Edition)
Barracuda is the story of Danny Kelly, a working class boy who attends a private school in Australia on a swimming scholarship. Danny is not popular and feels an outsider. The only way he can climb the "class ladder" and overcome the bullying is by succeeding in the pool and being the best. Danny truly believes in himself and wants to pursue his dream to get an Olympic gold medal in order to show the bullies who he really is. His family make many sacrifices for him but at the Australian Swimming Championship he misses out on a place for the Australian Olympic team and his life goes downhill from there. Danny has to deal with violence, time in prison and the shame he feels he has brought to his coach and family. Slowly he tries to move on with the help of friends and family to find a new meaning to his life and become the person he has been looking for.

Barracuda is told from Danny's perspective and I struggled in the beginning as Danny is not a likeable character as a self-obsessed teenager. Danny eventually grows up and his life journey makes him a more humble and mature human being. He redeems himself and becomes more likeable. Although I have never been to Australia the struggle between classes, bullying, rivalry, violence and shame occur in all societies and countries so I found it easy to relate to the story and what its characters go through. The story poses questions like why we idolise sporting heroes while they perform well and win and we then dismiss them when they don't win anymore and what happens to those heroes when they hit rock bottom.

This is the first Christos Tsiolkas novel I have read so I cannot draw any comparisons to The Slap or any of his previous work. Barracuda uses strong language, sex and violence to make the story realistic but which some readers may find unsettling and uncomfortable to read. The story is not told in chronological order and it jumps around along with Danny's thoughts and feelings. It moves from the first to third person as the protagonist ages.This is a raw and challenging read which will not leave you indifferent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs a warning for language and some explicit content!!, 6 Feb 2014
By 
Simon "Simon" (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
This book was ok and just ok. I'd never read or even heard of this author but when this book was recommended in a Sunday newpaper I decided to try it. Now I'm no prude but some of the language and explicit sex had me cringing and wondering if this was really necessary or indeed if it did anything to enhance the story. As others have mentioned, Danny is not a particulalrly likeable character - self-absorbed, insular, quite despressing and overall his 'story' is not that complelling. The ending is strange but I was quite pleased to get to the end after almost giving up several times. The book does raise some interesting points about the nature of Australian society, it's just a shame the main character got in the way so much. Worth a dip into but I won't be rushing out to read more from this writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but far from perfect, 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
Daniel Kelly is an ambitious young sportsman who has been tipped for future success with Australia's swimming team. He is entirely focused on his target, despite problems at home and at the posh boarding school he attends on a scholarship. But when he doesn't do as well as he thinks he should have at a swimming event, everything starts to unravel.

Aptly enough, for a novel about someone confused about who he is and how he fits into society, this book has a complex narration. Events don't appear in order, some sections are headed with a date and location, others aren't. This doesn't make the book difficult to follow, but it did mildly irritate me at times. The author is trying to keep a secret from the start of the book until approximately two-thirds of the way through - we know right from the beginning that something major has happened to derail Danny's life, but we don't know what it is. The exact nature of the event is kept from us for nearly 300 pages, which at times felt a bit of a strain - the author seemed to be artificially prolonging the reveal.

When we do find out what happened I couldn't help but feel that this revelation wasn't powerful enough to compensate for having to wait so long for it.

Daniel is known by several different variations of his name and by nick-names in the book, a sure sign of confusion about where he fits in - not only within his family, but at school and in wider society. Everything about him is a subject for confusion, especially once his swimming ambitions are out of the picture. This makes the novel and interesting journey for the reader. I found it strangely compelling - I didn't particularly like Daniel but felt that I had to keep turning the pages to find out what happened to him. He emerges as a more formed character at the end of the book, but the author avoids giving him a Hollywood happy ending instead showing us how Daniel is starting to break away from his past and move forward as a different kind of man.

As well the protagonist being confused about his identity, the author seems to be pointing out a similar conundrum about Australia. Everyone there who is not an Indigenous Australian has by definition come from somewhere else, but the various ethnic and social groups portrayed are far from being united. The country may be a melting pot, but one in which not everything has melted adequately. This is a different view from that demonstrated in many portrayals of Australia seen in the rest of the world and is an interesting view of a country many think they know, but apparently do not.

All in all I found Barracuda an interesting read, despite not feeling much of a connection with the main character. Any author who can make a reader continue reading about someone they don't much care about is skilled indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book... but could have been so much better., 11 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
Having heard many good reports about Christos Tsiolkas previous novel, "The Slap" I was looking forward to reading his newest work, "Barracuda", which is the story of a talented swimmer who is so totally focused on success that he doesn't even comprehend the possibility of failure, so that when it happens he is unable to cope.

This is a good story, struggling to be an excellent one, but it is not an easy read - primarily because the main character is such a self-centred and unlike-able person, but I also found that I was becoming irritated by the structure of the novel itself, along with the artifices employed in the story telling. It felt at times as if the author had taken the chapters and randomly shuffled them, which did make it hard to get a sense of where the story was going, or had been. The author also had the main character using different versions of his name at different stages of the story, as if he was trying to provide signposts.

I was also uncomfortable that the author had chosen to give his protagonist quite so many hurdles to overcome - it seemed at times that he had been given the chance to make a trolley dash around the oppressed minority storeroom and giving him as many obstacles as he could find and then throwing them all at him at once.

Overall, though, it is a good but disturbing story of a fractured life, and dealing with the many issues that the main character faces in a very realistic way, showing that there are no easy answers to some peoples problems, and that some issues cannot be resolved.

The ending, although initially feeling unsatisfactory because of the lack of resolution, could be seen as being absolutely right, in that it is asking a question that no one can truly answer for themselves.

Overall, this is an earnest and thought provoking book, but the pity is that, like the main character, it could have been so much more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive but unsatisfying., 10 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Barracuda (Kindle Edition)
I found this book compulsive reading. It creates a sometimes creepy feeling of tension around Danny, the gifted young swimmer powered by even more rage than talent. The writing is powerful and the characterisation of Danny is credible. But he is not a sympathetic character, so that, for me, made the overall experience of reading the book powerful, but uncomfortable and ultimately unsatisfying. It is hard to like a nasty, self-absorbed brat who grows into a man who, even at the end, is barely in control of his anger. Of course, he has redeeming features and the lack of true resolution at the end is probably realistic, though I also felt that the author was like a pilot finding it difficult to get his plane to land: the last few pages whir away inconsequentially.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by technique, 5 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
I haven't read Tsiolkas's previous big hit, The Slap, but I've heard of it and sought it out in my local library, only to be put off due to its doorstop size.

This story, of longing and belonging, of determination and the lure of destruction, of family and nationality and the desire to be of value is not a bad one, but it is somewhat lost in the superfluous fluff of the novel. Daniel Kelly is not unlikeable, his overwhelming desperation is understandable, but the writing is not to my taste. Daniel / Danny / Dan moves between writing of himself in the first person and the third, he changes between the past tense and the present, and the timeline leaps about unnecessarily and confusingly.

I would have enjoyed Barracuda a lot more if it was written in a more cohesive way, which would no doubt cut it down by around 200 or so pages; as it was, it was a bit of a chore.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and thought provoking, 4 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
I wasn't a big fan of Tsiolkas' earlier book, The Slap, I found it quite cold. I probably wouldn't have read this novel if I hadn't been sent an ARC. But I would have missed out.

As a teenager Danny is full of talent and potential but through arrogance, pride and anger he sabotages his own chances of becoming an Olympic swimmer. He's exiled from the heaven of swimming and his shame and self hatred soon spiral out of control until his whole life disintegrates.

Despite his bad behaviour, Danny does have redeemable qualities. The novel is about shame and forgiveness and learning to live with yourself, and I found it a compassionate and moving depiction of a person's struggle through life. It's a challenging read; the structure moves between time frames, the past and present moving towards one another towards a collision point, and in a way we start at the end, and end at the beginning, which makes it poignant. The language is brutal and shocking at times, but can be beautiful too, especially in its descriptions of the thrill of swimming and the joy of reading. I found it thoroughly engaging.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slap Me, 27 Jan 2014
This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas

I confess I have had a copy of The Slap sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read for a while now. I do believe that wait is over.
And the motivation is from just finishing my Real Readers copy of Barracuda, Mr. Tsiolkas (does anyone know how to pronounce the name?) new novel.
Reviewers have not always been kind to this writer so I started the book with no real expectations. But I finished it with total admiration.
I thought it was an excellent novel. You could be forgiven for believing it to be a tale of an adolescent kid throwing a strop because he didn’t win a race. But it is so much more than that.
This is a tour de force of adolescent angst, anger and aggression and the painful journey to being a whole person again.
I suspect the book also has much to say about the situation of sports in Australia but I am British and I can’t usefully comment on that. There is little of the sports scholarship thing in this country and I’m not even sure how it works.
But that is only part of the story and in the bigger picture just a small part.
Danny the boy is not very appealing; Dan the man breaks our hearts. To have a dream well within your grasp and to lose that dream forever is not something to get over easily. To deal with it with criminal activity is reprehensible to say the least. But to understand why you’ve gone wrong and where you’ve gone wrong is one thing and to turn it around to enrich the lives of those you care about and may have hurt in the past is something else.
I suppose you could see this as a coming of age story, a painful coming but a satisfactory and hopeful ending made this a meaningful read for me.
I loved it. So, slap me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read, 4 April 2014
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This review is from: Barracuda (Kindle Edition)
really enjoyed this, my second book, of Christos Tsiolkas' after reading The Slap. I saw Head On the film based on his book Loaded many years ago and really enjoyed that. So, I was introduced to this author via that film but it has taken until now to actually read his books. So glad that I am, I really like his writing
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable tale of Danny Kelly, 1 April 2014
By 
Mikey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Barracuda (Paperback)
Danny Kelly is a future Olympic swimming hero. Does he have what it takes to fulfil all the dreams of those who are expecting so much from him?
We follow Danny Kelly through his teenage years and twenties to reach the man he is today. We see his struggles and pain during this period as he spends time in the UK, Australia and a couple of other destinations in his pursuit of being the best swimmer around,
This is an enjoyable tale and seemingly quite believable, judging by the Melbourne I have experienced over the years.
Barracuda would be an interesting adaption for film or TV. Maybe the ABC are tempted? Might try The Slap now.
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Barracuda
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas (Paperback - 2 Jan 2014)
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