RECOMMENDATIONS/BOOK REVIEW (Staff, 10-12)
Last October I posted information about The Slap. I’m adding this review as an alternative viewpoint. Hopefully this year we’ll have different people giving their opinions about the same book. Sasha is my 19 year old son.
The Slap – By Christos Tsiolkas
In short, The Slap centres around just that: a child being slapped at a family barbecue, the repercussions and lives of those involved. The story is told through eight chapters, each through the perspective of a different person. When I first started reading The Slap,
the first-person perspective put me off a bit (although that might have been because I just read Twilight– only for the lulz, don’t worry), but it was done surprisingly well, giving insights into the characters’ thoughts and personalities.
Although The Slap does not, by any means, lack a plot, its main focus is the development of characters. This gives the reader a very vivid picture of not only what the character behaves like and appears to be like, but also what they are like “on the inside”– how they think, how they reason, what is important to them, and what they keep hidden from others. This character development is done expertly and subtly, showing us what the characters are, rather than telling us.
Another interesting aspect of The Slap is the cultural perspective that Tsiolkas, as a Greek-Australian, brings into play. The first-person perspective portrays different ways of thinking and feeling across the cultures, and also between generations. For example, the first chapter is told from the perspective of Hector, born in Australia, while the seventh chapter is told from that of Manolis, his Greek-born father.
One of the things that I’ve heard people have disliked about this book is that it was too pessimistic. “Nobody I could sympathise with”, said one person. I agree that there isn’t really anybody in this book that you can “root” for. There is no single protagonist, nobody you can feel comfortable liking completely (although some are a lot more likeable than others). However, I think this is one of the main strengths of this book. After all, isn’t everybody flawed? Isn’t everybody unpleasant sometimes, selfish, perhaps even nasty? Hasn’t everybody had thoughts they’ve kept to themselves? Secret not told to loved ones? I rather enjoyed the gritty realism of flawed characters, but perhaps that’s just me.
I would recommend this book to anybody craving some good characters. If you’re sick of reading stories in which a one-dimensional protagonist encounters an issue and then resolves it, or even if you have read some good books lately, but want something that really vividly paints a picture of people (alliteration unintentional), then give The Slap a try. At almost 500 pages, it isn’t really a short read, but it’s not a difficult one either, and will grip you once you’ve started it. Hey, I read it on holiday!