Daniel Kelly, a talented young swimmer, has one chance to escape his working-class upbringing.
His astonishing ability in the pool should drive him to fame and fortune, as well as his revenge on the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship.
Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of his dream.
But when he melts down at his first big international championship and comes only fifth, he begins to destroy everything he has fought for and turn on everyone around him.
Tender and savage, Barracuda is a novel about dreams and disillusionment, friendship and family.
As Daniel Kelly loses everything, he learns what it means to be a good person - and what it takes to become one.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 528 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 02/01/2014
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781782392422
Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.
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Review by ninnytendo
Barracuda is the story of Danny Kelly, a working class boy who attends a private school in Australia on a swimming scholarship. Danny is not popular and feels an outsider. The only way he can climb the “class ladder” and overcome the bullying is by succeeding in the pool and being the best. Danny truly believes in himself and wants to pursue his dream to get an Olympic gold medal in order to show the bullies who he really is. His family make many sacrifices for him but at the Australian Swimming Championship he misses out on a place for the Australian Olympic team and his life goes downhill from there. Danny has to deal with violence, time in prison and the shame he feels he has brought to his coach and family. Slowly he tries to move on with the help of friends and family to find a new meaning to his life and become the person he has been looking for. Barracuda is told from Danny’s perspective and I struggled in the beginning as Danny is not a likeable character as a self-obsessed teenager. Danny eventually grows up and his life journey makes him a more humble and mature human being. He redeems himself and becomes more likeable. Although I have never been to Australia the struggle between classes, bullying, rivalry, violence and shame occur in all societies and countries so I found it easy to relate to the story and what its characters go through. The story poses questions like why we idolise sporting heroes while they perform well and win and we then dismiss them when they don’t win anymore and what happens to those heroes when they hit rock bottom. This is the first Christos Tsiolkas novel I have read so I cannot draw any comparisons to The Slap or any of his previous work. Barracuda uses strong language, sex and violence to make the story realistic but which some readers may find unsettling and uncomfortable to read. The story is not told in chronological order and it jumps around along with Danny’s thoughts and feelings. It moves from the first to third person as the protagonist ages.This is a raw and challenging read which will not leave you indifferent.
Review by shizz
Barracuda – Christos TsiolkasI confess I have had a copy of The Slap sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read for a while now. I do believe that wait is over.And the motivation is from just finishing my Real Readers copy of Barracuda, Mr. Tsiolkas (does anyone know how to pronounce the name?) new novel.Reviewers have not always been kind to this writer so I started the book with no real expectations. But I finished it with total admiration.I thought it was an excellent novel. You could be forgiven for believing it to be a tale of an adolescent kid throwing a strop because he didn’t win a race. But it is so much more than that.This is a tour de force of adolescent angst, anger and aggression and the painful journey to being a whole person again.I suspect the book also has much to say about the situation of sports in Australia but I am British and I can’t usefully comment on that. There is little of the sports scholarship thing in this country and I’m not even sure how it works. But that is only part of the story and in the bigger picture just a small part. Danny the boy is not very appealing; Dan the man breaks our hearts. To have a dream well within your grasp and to lose that dream forever is not something to get over easily. To deal with it with criminal activity is reprehensible to say the least. But to understand why you’ve gone wrong and where you’ve gone wrong is one thing and to turn it around to enrich the lives of those you care about and may have hurt in the past is something else. I suppose you could see this as a coming of age story, a painful coming but a satisfactory and hopeful ending made this a meaningful read for me.I loved it. So, slap me.
Review by lesleystyles
This novel is brimming with testosterone! It deals with ambition, dedication, anger, shame and regret. It is well written and quite interesting, especially the moments when the protagonist is totally immersed (if you'll pardon the pun) in the act of swimming.The book is quite long and somewhat repetitive in places, although I don't know how I would begin to pare it down. It is, in my opinion, quite an angry book with a lot to say about class, race and sexuality. There aren't many really likeable characters in the story, but I am unsure how much of this feeling is actually being projected by the protagonist onto the other players rather than being the nature of the characters themselves.I get the distinct feeling that this novel has a degree of semi-autobiographical content within it as there seems to be an awful lot more insight into various aspects of the story than you might expect. Certain passages positively reek of personal experience.Overall I really enjoyed this book (once I had come to terms with some of the language used) and I would be happy to recommend it.
Review by arkgirl1
An emotional, challenging read about an aspiring Olympic teenage swimming star and what happens when things don't go to plan. Danny Kelly moves school to the 'posh' scholarship, elitist school that can push him to be an Australian sporting star but although he quickly moves up the ranks an unfortunate loss challenges him to consider whether he is the 'fastest, strongest, best'.The successful writer of The Slap creates an intriguing lead character that slowly gets under your skin even though you struggle at first to like him. The story is told in a slightly confused manner as we hear about Danny's future and his future self's story moves backwards to meet and then cross the chronological story of Danny the swimmer. At times you can be slightly confused and I do admit when part 2 started I wondered if we were getting a parallel story on top of everything else!! Despite the confusion the story comes together in a satisfying and intriguing manner with depth, humour and some uncomfortable moments.The story has some brutality and sexual content that some people may be unsettled by, it definitely has a strong masculine focus, but it also has extra layers that explore politics, nationalism, sporting adulation and parental influences that add to the depth and complexity of the read.I will certainly look to read more by Tsiolkas because it made me think and feel, he writes in a way that paints pictures and creates well rounded lead characters.
Review by AStevePowers
Having heard many good reports about Christos Tsiolkas previous novel, “The Slap” I was looking forward to reading his newest work, “Barracuda”, which is the story of a talented swimmer who is so totally focused on success that he doesn't even comprehend the possibility of failure, so that when it happens he is unable to cope. This is a good story, struggling to be an excellent one, but it is not an easy read – primarily because the main character is such a self-centred and unlike-able person, but I also found that I was becoming irritated by the structure of the novel itself, along with the artifices employed in the story telling. It felt at times as if the author had taken the chapters and randomly shuffled them, which did make it hard to get a sense of where the story was going, or had been. The author also had the main character using different versions of his name at different stages of the story, as if he was trying to provide signposts. I was also uncomfortable that the author had chosen to give his protagonist quite so many hurdles to overcome – it seemed at times that he had been given the chance to make a trolley dash around the oppressed minority storeroom and giving him as many obstacles as he could find and then throwing them all at him at once. Overall, though, it is a good but disturbing story of a fractured life, and dealing with the many issues that the main character faces in a very realistic way, showing that there are no easy answers to some peoples problems, and that some issues cannot be resolved. The ending, although initially feeling unsatisfactory because of the lack of resolution, could be seen as being absolutely right, in that it is asking a question that no one can truly answer for themselves. Overall, this is an earnest and thought provoking book, but the pity is that, like the main character, it could have been so much more.
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