Monday, 3 August 2009

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

On Tuesday 28 July, 7 Minervans met to discuss Christos Tsiolkas controverial book The Slap. Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, we all agreed it was a can't put down read, that had engaged us all. There was a lot of discussion of the Greek Australian culture that formed the background for a number of characters, and the role of males within this culture. There was some discussion about the representation of a certain middle-class Australia: the aspirational Australians. There was a very strong representation of consumerism, and the material ascendancy of this second generation of characters.

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.