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141 of 161 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melbourne book for Melbourne people
Christos Tsiolkas is a Melbourne writer and The Slap is a Melbourne book. It delivers a number of portraits of Melbourne types - the Greek car dealer; the Indian vet; the soap opera world; the gay teenager; the bogan mother and more. The portraits are all loosely linked to one another, deriving from a barbecue at which the horrid bogan toddler is slapped by the Greek car...
Published on 17 May 2010 by MisterHobgoblin

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302 of 333 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Throw another Point Of View on the barbie.
This is a long book and it took me a while to get into it. I was in fact on the point of abandoning it when it eventually did pick up a bit. One of the problems is that at the start you are confronted by a large cast of characters and I for one was a bit bewildered trying to keep up with who everyone was to begin with. Anyway, I did persevere and I am quite glad I did...
Published on 30 May 2010 by doublegone


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302 of 333 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Throw another Point Of View on the barbie., 30 May 2010
By 
doublegone (scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
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This is a long book and it took me a while to get into it. I was in fact on the point of abandoning it when it eventually did pick up a bit. One of the problems is that at the start you are confronted by a large cast of characters and I for one was a bit bewildered trying to keep up with who everyone was to begin with. Anyway, I did persevere and I am quite glad I did although this is by no means a perfect book.

An adult smacks someone else's misbehaving child at a barbecue and the ripples from this event spread out through a chain of eight different people whose point of view we are given one after the other. If you pick up the book and have a glance at the blurb you might get the impression that it sets out to explore the rights and wrongs of the slapping incident - but the smack seems to be there merely to offer a link between the characters. The book is really a portrait of contemporary and cosmopolitan Australia. As such it is reasonably interesting but plot wise its difficult to glean any point to the story as we meander through the lives of the eight narrators.

I must add that I am quite surprised how many other reviewers have been upset by some of the language used in this book. The dialogue contains fairly run of the mill swearing and its puzzling to imagine there are poor flowers out there over the age of 8 and outside of a convent who are offended by this. Similarly some of the characters exhibit casual racism but we are it seems to me supposed to disapprove of them for this. Exposing such racism makes this an anti-racist book in my opinion. There is racism in Australia, and sometimes people swear. Its odd to think some readers think this is the author's fault. It seems an honest and accurate depiction of a society to me.

This is a flawed book though, and not as engaging as I would have wished.
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141 of 161 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melbourne book for Melbourne people, 17 May 2010
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Christos Tsiolkas is a Melbourne writer and The Slap is a Melbourne book. It delivers a number of portraits of Melbourne types - the Greek car dealer; the Indian vet; the soap opera world; the gay teenager; the bogan mother and more. The portraits are all loosely linked to one another, deriving from a barbecue at which the horrid bogan toddler is slapped by the Greek car dealer. But the novel is not plot driven, it is 100% character focused. There is no great ending to draw it all together; the novel might as well be seen as a set of short essays.

The demographics, the reported movement of families around the northern and eastern suburbs was revealing. Melbourne is undergoing great social change right now - as it has probably done since its foundation. There is a reference to the soaring real estate prices, with a knowing assertion that a million dollar shoe box is still a shoe box - although more colourful language was used to make the point. The implication, clearly, was that the people living in it might have become millionaires but they are still what they ever were.

The Slap also charts the changing social attitudes in Melbourne. There are three distinct generations in the piece - teenagers; forty-somethings; and the grandparents. Each generation had thought they were the rebels; the trailblazers but then get swept aside by the next generation. It's all a matter of perception, and after reading old man Manolis's section one can't help but think that today's young rebels, rude, brash and arrogant have a somewhat easier life than their ancestors.

The Slap does a great job in giving life and expression to ordinary Melburnians. It offers a convincing vision and conveys a strong sense of place. It is long, involved and very much a slow burner. It probably isn't going to appeal to those looking for a strong story - which is a pity because that's what the cover promises. It may not seem relevant to people who don't know Melbourne; people who might not understand the social and racial interplay that is going on. And it certainly isn't Neighbours with its short, twee plotlines, weekly cliffhangers and easy resolutions. This is serious literature, weighty in both paper and meaning. But it may not travel well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A long slog, 15 Feb 2013
By 
S. Pawley - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The publicity for this book has been about the narrative pivot: the ramifications of a man hitting someone else's child. I say `pivot' rather than `focal point' because that is not really what the book is about. It is really just a device to tie together a series of stories, some connected, others only linked to the over-arching stories by contrivance. The book's real aim is less to explore the issue of `the slap' itself, and more to present a panoramic picture of life in suburban Melbourne. In that regard it is only partially successful.
The key strengths are flashes of original writing (the first 20 pages or so seemed especially fresh to me), and a measure of psychological insight. But these are overshadowed by the weaknesses. Few of the key characters (around a dozen) are very interesting in themselves, and most are superficially drawn. Insofar as there is psychological insight, it is never sustained for very long. The episodic structure gives very little sense of characters changing over time, and overall the novel is light on `plot' as such. These shortcomings make the book much harder work than it ought to be, and there is little to compel the reader's attention.
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559 of 647 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Slap, 28 Aug 2010
By 
TomCat (Cardiff, Wales.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
If Christos Tsiolkas had wanted to name his novel after its most prominent moment or topic, then he should have called it `unpleasant people having repetitive, unpleasant sex' rather than 'The Slap'. The novel's titular event is barely a footnote to the plot, and Tsiolkas seems morally afraid to engage with the issue on any significant plane: 'The Slap' is neither emotionally nor intellectually demanding and offers no insight into the ethical conundrum posed by its blurb.

At a BBQ in Melbourne, Australia, a four-year-old boy named Hugo is acting every bit the insufferable, entitled, disruptive and unpleasant infant his parents have brought him up to be. In an effort to calm the rowdy and precocious boy, a man who isn't his father slaps him in front of the entire gathering.

The domestic corporal punishment of children is a contentious issue; even more so when the chastisement is delivered by a non-parent. In some countries (not Australia) it's completely illegal, and in most parts of the world the concept is associated with a niche of old-fashioned parenting, perhaps synonymous with the traditionalist right.

Child slapping has also received an unprecedented amount of media attention in recent years; it's an issue about which everybody has an opinion - even if you've not been a parent, then you've been a child - making it perfect fodder for the popular novel. Perhaps this universal interest accounts for the novel's ridiculous sales record; it's currently the best-selling book of the 2010 Booker Prize longlist, and according to some sources, it's sold a staggering 5000% more copies than its closest competitor, Room by Emma Donoghue. These sales figures can probably be attributed to the book's provocative subject matter; but if you were feeling particularly cynical, you could argue that 'The Slap' has sold so well because it's the only paperback on the Booker longlist.

The narrative is divided into eight very long chapters, each told from the perspective of a different witness to the slap. The first thing I noticed was the ethnic and cultural diversity of the cast of characters at this neighbourhood barbecue. The entire social rainbow is represented in 'The Slap', and the novel's dramatis personae reads like the fantasy guest-list of an equal opportunities officer: there's an Indian-Australian, Greek-Australian, Aboriginal-Australian, naturalized white Australians, a black Muslim, a Catholic, a Hindi and an atheist; young, old, gay, straight, single, married and divorced; with careers ranging from the unemployed to car mechanics, doctors, vets, writers, actors, waitresses, shop-keepers and carpenters. I'm not saying that such a sundry group of tight-knit friends doesn't or couldn't exist (if anything, I admit that `realism' is an elastic and ambivalent critical term), but the cast smacks of misguided political correctness.

Concordantly, the social and economic diversity of the characters exposes Tsiolkas' laziness as a writer; he resorts to the most basic exploitation of social conflicts in order to create dramatic tension. It's indolent, lacks depth and is border-line offensive in its reductiveness.

However, despite their differing cultural heritages, the characters in The Slap all share the same, uniform personality. It's a psychological homunculus applied to every single protagonist. They are all (without exception); adulterous, quick to anger, violent, vain, profane, selfish and judgemental. The eight characters that the novel follows may as well all be the same person. They're not presented as anti-heroes, nor are they unpleasant in an appealing or curiously attractive way; they're just horrible, horrible people, and I thank God that Tsiolkas' vision of society isn't at all close to reality.

Supposedly, each chapter gives us a different viewpoint on the slapping of Hugo. I was hoping that, as the novel progressed, a complex discourse would develop; one that analyses the various moral and social implications of hitting children. But in truth, Tsiolkas has absolutely nothing to say on the matter; nothing in The Slap is enlightening, contentious, creative or insightful. The fall-out from the titular event lasts no more than fifty pages, and the writer doesn't contribute anything of interest to the debate. Only the two simplest of viewpoints are implicit in the narrative, and these the most garishly polar of the debate: `The kid deserved it' versus `nobody should hit a child'. What's more frustrating is that Tsiolkas refuses to express any kind of authorial opinion - lest he alienate a percentage of his potential readership, I imagine. The book is reluctant to fall down on either side of the child-slapping debate and thus lacks any argument or imperative whatsoever.

The prose can be defined by two stylistic idiosyncrasies: firstly, there's a constant use of expletives and secondly, an obsession with gratuitous sex.

I wish I could say the language was witty or shocking, but it's merely tedious in its verbose repetition. Every page of the book drips with profanity rather than insight; it seems that Tsiolkas can only articulate his characters' emotions with expletives; from happiness to sadness, everything is described in four-letter words. To say the novel suffers from a lack of linguistic breadth would be an understatement. Maybe this is how the average Australian speaks (which I doubt), but after 500 pages of it, I just had to let the pointlessly crude language wash over me, meaninglessly - surely this is not a good thing?

I found the novel's sex scenes to be equally pointless. I don't consider myself a prude, or squeamish, but the sheer amount of gratuitous sexual imagery in The Slap acts as nothing more than distracting filler. At times I was confused as to whether I was reading an attempt at literature, or soft-porn. Generally speaking, I discourage sex scenes in novels; unless they develop a plot, comment on themes or are in some way vital to character development, then I find them irrelevant. The language and imagery used to evoke sex in The Slap is cliché-riddled, ineloquent and unintentionally farcical. I don't want to see the characters having sex for the same reasons that I don't want to see Elizabeth Bennet slowly eating breakfast, or Jack Bauer voiding his bowels - it tells me nothing, it means nothing; I feel nothing.

Parts of the novel are also frustratingly difficult to read. There's a frequent confusion of pronouns, for example:

"Hector told Harry that he was in trouble."

The meaning of this sentence is ambiguous; is it Hector that's in trouble, or is it Harry? It isn't clear from the context and while I could forgive such a misguided construction if it were a one-off, this type of grammatical error is alarmingly common-place. Similarly, the second-half of the novel is riddled with typing and page-setting errors, take the following three examples:

`Brutal' she head [sic] her aunt say, `it's just brutal'.

`I'm going to put then [sic] kids to bed'

`Harry shouldn't have het [sic] that child.'

It's as if Tsiolkas' editors got bored half-way through the book (who can blame them?), and decided to give up. I find such a proliferation of typos in a printed novel to be utterly inexcusable and a detriment to the veracity of the medium.

'The Slap' is a complete failure; a book that promises so much but delivers so little. Supposedly, it's a heated and controversial novel about a much-debated moral issue; in reality The Slap makes no contribution to the child-slapping discussion. It offers no original insights or ethical commentary, and doesn't even do a good job of couching the debate in terms of its pros and cons. The actual event, `the slapping', is over in an instant and is soon forgotten about in favour of long, gratuitous sex-scenes and uninteresting personal disputes. I'm sure that the novel's ostensible subject matter will make it popular with a certain type of coffee-morning book group; but I'm also confident that, like me, most readers will be disappointed by the novel's refusal to engage with the issues at hand.

I cannot fathom why the Booker Prize judges saw fit to nominate this novel to their longlist. Don't read it. And if you happen to see Christos Tsiolkas walking down the street, feel-free to give him a much-deserved and well earned slap across the face.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great news: lots more in the pipeline, 15 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
The following press release has just been received from Christos Tsiolkas's agent:

If you enjoyed The Slap, then here is some good news. Christos Tsiolkas now sees it as only the first in a continuing series of books which he believes will redefine our understanding of the modern world. Next up will be The Kick, which will centre on a soccer game in which one of the players kicks a member of the opposing team. That will be followed by The Push, in which someone in a queue for tickets to a rock concert pushes the person in front of him out of the queue. And beyond that a further eight titles are also in the pipeline, including The Stare, The Frown, and The Cynically Raised Eyebrow.

Some ungenerous critics have suggested that the ethical considerations involved in an adult slapping a child can be dealt with in one sentence ("An adult should never hit a child, no matter how badly behaved") and that a 500-page book is therefore somewhat over the top. Other critics, even more ungenerously, have suggested that the technique used in The Slap, in which the story is told from the perspective of 8 separate characters (most of whom have little or nothing to say about the slapping incident which is supposedly the book's unifying event), produces 8 largely disjointed stories without any unifying theme. Many of these critics concede that there are some enjoyable vignettes - for example, the chapter devoted to Manolis includes an interesting study of an elderly man's distress at what he sees as the poor behaviour of younger generation - but this can't compensate, the critics argue, for the overall disjointedness of the book. Worse still, some people have even suggested that Tsiolkas's characters, who swear pointlessly at every opportunity and who mostly seem to think that sex is an entirely physical activity with little or no emotional content, aren't a reasonable representation of life in Melbourne, or indeed anywhere else.

When these points were put to Christos Tsiolkas, his reply was every bit as articulate as we would expect from the author of The Slap: "I'll f...ing write what I f..ing well like, and all these f...ers can just f... off". Surely only the most cynical critic could fail to be swayed by such a strong argument? The world breathlessly awaits his next book!

End of press release.
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85 of 103 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars don't bother, 3 Nov 2010
By 
Yeti (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
Don't bother with this book. It is boring. Someone slaps a kid. The kid was asking for it. The rest of the book hardly touches on the slap and the why of the slap. It is just a collection of not very well written stories about a lot of people in Melbourne. Most of them are Greek or Indian. Most of them are not real characters but charicatures. There is also some distasteful sex thrown in here and there. That's about it. Don't bother. Really.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction is about realism not political correctness, 24 April 2011
By 
Angus Jenkinson "angusjenkinson" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don't understand readers who object to characters who act like themselves - that's what they're supposed to do. They can be violent, they can swear, they can indeed be obnoxious. And this can make a novel all the better. Indeed, in some cases, like this, it is essential to the working of the novel or fictional work. Think of Lear's daughters. We don't have to admire a character. On the other hand, we do normally need to find someone to sympathise with to enjoy the book, or play. Again, think of Lear's daughters - Cordelia's loving nature serves to contrast the inhumanity of his other daughters.

The Slap is a seamy and powerful work - the extent of feeling shows that. And it centres on an unpalatable act turned into a bombshell in an extended family/friends group. Mimetic desire is a strong element of the narrative - envy, blame, hatred and lust reverberate through the network of characters. It also captures one of the great discoveries of the 20th century, how one small incident can thoroughly and finally disturb and totally refashion the pattern of relations in a community through a rewiring of perceptions. For such reasons it deserves study and classic status. As an evocation of a portion of Australian life, it also commands admiration, although this is not Australian society as the country would want to project through a travel ad!

For all this, it's not an enjoyable book, mainly because there is no-one one can really admire, no-one the reader will probably like. This bleakness of spirit may be tonally authentic and intentional, but it is fictionally off-putting. The slap itself is the catalyst for exposing the unfulfilled criticising the unfulfilled in a world where fulfilment is a social dream that has no more reality than a mirage.

So, not a pleasant read, not a truly great book, but deserving 5*.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not just a slap......, 7 Feb 2011
By 
Lucinda Stern (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
If nothing else I found this book hard to put down. I was bemused/amused and a little shocked by the amount of chapters that seem to start in the bathroom, or beneath the duvet, but it starts that way, so I guess I had been for-warned. I don't know Australia and I can't say this book made me want to, just as I was left with no desire to meet the characters. However I didn't read it for a scenic journey, or a lovable cast. I read it for its fairly upfront commentary on society, and in that it delivers. The rightness/wrongness/fact-of the act of the slap is never concluded, instead various view points are held up. That said one does feel that the author goes along with most of the characters in maybe believing that the fairly ghastly Hugo had what he deserved. As a non-parent I liked the unsentimental view of children, and the concept that perhaps women who choose not to have children are fundementally different from those who do struck a chord.
By the 5th narrative I was a little tired of the changing view point and would have preferred slightly less characters, that said as someone who dislikes multi-narrative books this one held me for a long time. It is a book I'd recommend to some without caution, but would hesitate to share with those of a more sensitive or 'prudish' nature. It would make quite a good book-club book in that people seem quite divided on how they feel about it, and it does raise discussion points
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47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 18 May 2011
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
I only gave this one star because 0 stars wasn't an option.

I'll start by saying I'm not a prude, and sexual content and bad language don't bother me. But this was the entire book, constant swearing and constant sex. In fact if those parts were taken out of the book, it would have been half as long. The actual storyline regarding the slap itself was merely a backdrop to all of this.

Normally when I read a book I can relate to certain characters and that really gets me into the story. Not in this case. There wasn't one character I liked, they were all horrible people.

I got 2/3 through and realised I was completely wasting my time so I didn't even finish it. And believe me, it takes a lot for me to totally abandon a book.

I have absolutely no idea why this has won so many awards. Worst book I ever read.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended by the Australian Tourist Board ..., 7 Sep 2011
By 
Pamela Thomas (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
I have been reading this because it was the choice for our book group (the other one we chose this time was Hardy's 'Under the Greenwood Tree', and I can hardly think of a more mind-boggling contrast). It's a long time since I've read a more unpleasant, misogynistic book so obsessed with crude sex, swearing, nastiness, with characters you would be more likely to see in the dock than at your party. The whole set-up, concentrating on a series of players in the drama of 'the slap' (a major non-event), seems an excuse to focus on their sex lives, which are described in terms so crude and basic that it reads like porn, while the other parts of their largely humdrum lives are depicted in tedious detail. I'm not by any means a prude but whatever happened to loving, joyful sex between two people who actually like each other and are not cheating on someone else? Long since disappeared from Australian life, if this book is to be believed. And, like porn, once you've read one hideously explicit description, you've really read them all. Not only that, but the characters are, without exception, deeply unpleasant people: greedy, angry, drunken, lecherous, lying, self-obsessed, woman-hating, homophobic and vilely racist. I have long wanted to visit Australia, but if these people are typical of those I might meet there, I think I'll be staying at home. How it was long-listed for the Booker is beyond me: I can't imagine the judges were stupid enough to equate the constant stream of abusive, sexist and racist language with cutting edge literary fiction. Horrible, horrible book.
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The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Paperback - 1 May 2010)
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