We all admitted to finding a lot of the characters rather unpleasant, but nonetheless very empathic. It was the younger characters we felt were drawn the most successfully, but who also found themselves reacting to events around them, and caught up in the manipulations of others.
Tsiolkas managed to give all the characters a convincing voice, and to get inside their heads.There was a sense that all characters were portrayed as vulnerable, with the contradiction between their thoughts and deeds highlighted by the author. Different group members had favourite characters, from the tragic Rosie to the attractive and flawed Hugo, and the wicked Hector.
It was a fascinating structure to present the narrative from different perspectives, and to move the story along in a dynamic way, that retained suspense, and continuity.
The regular drug-taking and 'male-oriented' sex was also commented on. The representation of the abuse of power was very realistic and quite chilling in places.
The group discussed the slap or child punishment very little, seeing the book as much more about the relationships, power struggles and family stresses that were revealed as a reult of the incidence. There was also a comment that the book was not 'documentary realism', but more a series of incidences told in a sort of heightened realism to emphasise the drama, and implications of the actions of the characters. There were comments that some of the writing was somewhat melodramatic, and slightly 'TV soap script' in style, but most did not find this off-putting.
A book rich in discussion topics, and somewhat confronting in its depiction of aspects of Australian society. Well worth reading.