Penguin Books South Africa.
I read The Slap a while ago and must admit that I'm only reviewing it now because a Penguin Books press release jogged my memory. Christos Tsiolkas, the Aussie author of this brave and bizarre book, has been nominated for the 2010 MAN Booker Prize. Deservedly so. This is a novel to be talked about.
In short, an already troubled family man slaps someone else’s child at a barbecue. The sound reverberates around the garden; the onlookers gasp in horror. And the small universe at the heart of this piece of middle-class, suburban, non-white-bread Melbourne begins to unravel - because not only are friends and family deeply divided by the event, but it also brings to the surface all the ugly stuff lurking below.
First things first, the people in this novel are not mainstream. They are real. Disturbingly so. Screwing around, making poor choices, fighting with friends, lying about each other, fantasising about each other. Coming to terms with their own private miseries. Everyone's muddled; everyone's soul is murky.
The sex is explicit, and more than a little cheesy, but it fits. As does the hardcore language. Sorry.
And beyond it all, Tsiolkas displays magical control of the multiple threads of his narrative, via eight of the people, across three generations, who were present at the ill-fated barbecue. There are raw themes to be examined, yes, but this is masterfully carried out and, with sensitivity and pathos, Tsiolkas shows us how to understand even the most despicable people, whether we want to or not. The Slap is, as other reviewers have put it (who am I to reinvent the wheel?) a 'rewarding' read.