At a suburban barbecue one afternoon, a man slaps an unruly boy.
The boy is not his son. It is a single act of violence, but the slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it happen. Christos Tsiolkas presents the impact of this apparently minor domestic incident through the eyes of eight of those who witness it.
The result is an unflinching interrogation of the life of the modern family, a deeply thought-provoking novel about boundaries and their limits...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 496 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 01/05/2010
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781848873551
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
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Review by hazelk
I never managed to finish this novel which I brought with me to Melbourne on holiday from the U.K. as I thought it might add to the book's enjoyment. Sadly it didn't. I'm not of a delicate nature when reading novels but the unremitting onslaught of 'f' words and the particularly the ugly 'c' word really put me off. I had hoped that the novel wouldn't be too soap-operish and perhaps it did develop in the later chapters but I decided to leave it with my hosts to do with what they wanted - charity shop or perhaps their own bedrooms.
Review by polarbear123
Is the hype about this book justified? Probably not. Is it worth reading? yes. Narratives told from various points of view is the order of the day here with the common theme that all of the characters attended a barbecue where a child was slapped by one of the guests. The writing is simple and the narratives are an interesting read there is no doubt. You do find youself thinking about which side of the argument you would support. The main drawback to this book is that it is just unbelievable that certain characters would use the language that they do and have the feelings towards sex that they do. Is it mysoginistic? yes. I simply can't believe the attitude of some of the female characters here - am I being too prudish - you tell me! Certainly a book that will provoke a lot of discussion.
Review by deargreenplace
A group of friends, family and acquaintances attend a barbecue in suburban Melbourne, Australia. A four year-old boy is slapped by an adult. The book details the fall-out from the slap, and Tsiolkas allows each key character a chapter to unfold their lives and innermost thoughts for us.And what characters they are: shallow, deceitful, selfish and vain. Their children are undoubtedly loved and cared for and spoiled with material goods. I don't want to give any of the plotting away as it would ruin the shock factor of how truly hideous these people are - and this I think is Tsiolkas's point.Manolis is the father of Hector, who hosted the barbecue with his wife Aisha, and he, along with Richie were the pivotal - and most sympathetic - characters for me. Certainly their chapters did not make me fear quite so much for humanity as the others.Tsiolkas has pulled off a terrifying portrait of suburbia and its inhabitants, but takes care to give us some hope too. This is a stunning book.
Review by eleanor_eader
A child gets belted and a social circle implodes for about 500 pages.A two-star rating is pretty harsh for a book that made me think so much for the first half (maybe even the first two-thirds), but unfortunately the vileness really overshadowed this one. Not the slapping of a child in or of itself (hard to consider that a spoiler), or the unpleasantness of some of the characters, but the real cynicism that the author seems to feel about life. It’s a hefty book, too, so that’s a lot of wallowing in meanness and arrogance, anger and ridiculously over-done casual drug use. I won’t say it might not be real for the culture, but it makes for one boring read.The best thing about this novel – and it’s a double-edged ‘best’ – is that it’s a novel of opinions. Even the reader gets to have one, and this is the bit I enjoyed – that opinion can change a hundred times during each of the eight narrator’s chapters. Each character is worth of a good deal of thought but, unfortunately, my conclusions were not in anyone’s favour. One of the other themes seems to be control within relationships; everyone seems to be adamant about how everyone else should react. After a while, the question of whether the slap was a warranted response or the act of a monster ceases to be the point of the story and instead it becomes about unhappy people bitching at one another, mostly in the author’s voice and with the author’s vocabulary. It’s tedious. I made it to the end on pure curiosity, which is another reason this doesn’t get the ‘worst book I’ve ever read’ label. The author’s bringing of his own Greek-Australian culture was interesting, too. The ‘happy’ ending tacked on for my favourite – and last - of the characters actually felt jarring by the time I got there, that’s how humourless this book was.I won’t read anything else by this author, and I wouldn’t recommend this book, <i>unless</i> you’re such a fan of relationship fiction that you feel it might be worth the angst.
Review by Sovranty
Seemingly happy lives turned upside-down when a man amongst an established group slaps an unruly child while at a social BBQ. Lines are drawn between friends, family and acquaintances. Does this child or any person deserve to be slapped? Who is at fault: the aggressor, the victim, the parent, society, no one?It's hard to like any of the characters, as they are written without filters or societal expectations - their thoughts come crashing out of the mouths, exaggerated with hate, with little heed to the situation or subject. They also have a real-world sexual manner (or appetite?), both physical and fantasy, that is far from the censored romance one finds everywhere. The coarseness of each character makes it difficult to hold sympathy or empathy for them. Perhaps it is so difficult to like the characters because they are mirror images of our worse selves.Hard to read. Hard to finish. Hard to shake, whether it's for the controversy, gossip or lack of satisfaction. And yet I would recommend this book for just as many reasons. This being my first Australian author, I could have everything wrong.
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