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Making choices for friends or families
le 3 août 2011
What is more important in life, family or friends? The short answer is: it depends on who you are and where your family lives. "The Slap" provides the long answer. It follows the outcome of a BBQ-party in Melbourne, Australia where the host's cousin slaps Hugo, a child not his own, three year old, for threatening to hit his own son with a cricket bat. The slap affects and divides all the guests (family and friends), esp. after Hugo's parents (friends, not family) press charges.
This is a love or hate book. Many UK readers gave it only one star because they were shocked by the F- and C-words on almost every page, the foul-mouthed dialogues and peeks into ugly, vengeful minds, the length of both the book (483 pages) and its 8 chapters. Finally, many readers may not have liked the main characters. This reader says yes to all this. But in my opinion, the whole is more than the sum of the parts...
CT pictures the response to the slap through the eyes of eight witnesses, incl. the slapper in chapters of 60-70 pages each. These mini-biographies describe lots of personal anxiety. The BBQ-party was attended by a cross section of Australia: Hugo's parents are poor original Aussies, losers, the rest is secure or even rich. The host hails from Greece, his wife Aisha is half-Indian and a successful vet. Other non-Greek guests hail from every corner of the world and includes the host's youth friend Terry/Bilal, a once volcanic Aboriginal turned Muslim, now happily and contentedly married to a converted Irishwoman and a responsible family man intent on buying a house in the suburbs.
Thanks to all the drugs and drink "The Slap" reminded this reader occasionally of Brett Easton Ellis debut novel "Less than Zero" and its sequel "Imperial Bedrooms" with the same cast, written decades later. But where BEE's characters have mostly become inexplicably rich whilst lacking passion and testosterone, Tsiolkas' book is full of insecure, angry, assertive males, struggling to or suppressing the urge to empathise with their wives and children. They are Hector and Harry. As for the adult female characters, Aisha is the only sensible brick in this pentagon, sufficiently balanced to deal with whatever crisis emerges. Anouk remains enigmatic and Rosie a damaged person, a well-intended but stupid, selfish mother. Old Manolis (69), father of Hector who hosted the BBQ is an engaging example of first generation of Greek immigrants. As for the teenage characters Connie and Richie, gay Richie is sincere but confused, academically-brilliant Connie a wind vane, schemer. Both were in love with Hector. And so everyone is interlinked.
This great book will be discussed in reading sessions in libraries, on the internet, because of its sheer richness. Highly recommended.