Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE SLAP by Christos Tsiolkas

This book has received a lot of great buzz and it sounded to me like another read that I enjoyed, LITTLE CHILDREN by Tom Perrotta.  It definitely has the feel of LITTLE CHILDREN but it takes suburban dysfunction in a new direction.

A typical suburban barbecue in Melbourne takes an unexpected turn when an adult decides to disclipline a five-year-old child (not his own) by slapping him. The people at the party become divided in how they react to this act and everyone's lives are changed forever. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective as the individual's grapple with their feelings about the slap and the repercussions that it has had among through social group.

One of the interesting things I found about this book is that I didn't find a single character likeable from the 5-yr-old to the elderly father of the host of the party. Everyone is flawed and hides secrets.  It is interesting to see the aftereffects of the slap but the book is much more about the individuals in this community and how they are interconnected.  It is an interesting book but I would caution readers who are sensitive to profanity and explicit sex.  The book is filled with expletives and racial slurs and fairly graphic sex scenes.  While this is appropriate to the characters, it may be off-putting to some readers.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations.  While I think this book has interesting things to say about society and suburbia, I was put off by how much I disliked all of the characters. None of them seemed to have enough redeeming features to salvage them as people. It was also sometimes frustrating that you only got a glimpse into each character through their one chapter. Just when you were getting involved with a certain thread, the chapter ended and the author doesn't return to the interior life of that character again. Still, an interesting read.

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