Customer Review

146 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melbourne book for Melbourne people, 17 May 2010
This review is from: The Slap (Paperback)
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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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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jun 2010 14:28:44 BDT
I know nothing of Melbourne but am sure this is a great and universal novel. The differing perspectives of the protagonists are handled brilliantly in each section contrasting external worlds as perceived by the others with internal worlds as experienced. Values, generations, genders, families and friendships are acutely contrasted and compared with the only attempt at integration being through compassion and love. The narrative is sensitive, observant and economically but richly expressed. The book has a brutally honest vein of sex. This may be the finest novel I have read for some time. It is absurd to imply its Melbournian perspective might limit its appeal.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2010 22:29:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Jun 2010 22:35:38 BDT
I'm glad you found The Slap worked even without any knowledge of Melbourne. But it's clear from others' comments that they are having difficulty with some of it. In particular, the racial references and use of vernacular language seem to be stumbling blocks.

Posted on 18 Aug 2010 23:46:07 BDT
A. Labbett says:
I'm sorry Mister Hobgoblin, but having just finished this novel as part of a book group reading, one of the main impressions it leaves me with is a very poor impression of Australians. I was hoping that was a mistake, a bad impression given by a bad novel. But now you tell me it's really like this!

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2011 16:26:36 GMT
I entirely agree. Do not know Australia, let alone Melbourne, but found the narrative rich and gripping. An excellent book.

Posted on 11 Nov 2012 15:25:23 GMT
MisterHobgoblin, I'm guessing that you come from Melbourne? If it is "A Melbourne book for Melbourne people" then that's an incredibly small demographic for a major novel.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 02:29:50 GMT
Yes, I live in Melbourne. When I read the book, it had not been listed for the Booker Prize or been turned into a TV mini-series. There was no reason to expect the novel to be much bigger than Tsiolkas's previous novels which are unknown outside Australia. The subject matter in The Slap is very contemporary Melbourne - or perhaps a Melbourne of 3 years ago that was a bit more prosperous than today. I am glad the book has done so well, but I still wonder whether it smany readers are really fascinated by house prices in inner Melbourne suburbs and the racial tensions between the Greeks and the Anglos.
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