The Slap: A Novel by Christos Tsiolkas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It is hard to believe this book – yes, these elements exist in Australian society, but could so many awful people be concentrated in one circle of friends and family? Or maybe its just that it was too confronting a portrayal of our society that I have chosen not to believe it? Which ever it is, at one point I did throw the book across the room. Such levels of frustration are proof of the Tsiolkas’ ability to connect (provoke emotion?) with the reader.
Despite the lack of believability, it is one of the most realistic portrayals of suburbia we’ve looked at this year. The characters are vast, and while stereotypes are largely avoided, the characters are extreme. There are racial, generational, gender and class divides (made so obvious as people take sides after “the slap”). The chapter voiced by Rosie was particularly illuminating on the class divisions. Her conversation with Bilal towards the end, and her realisation that they could never win the court case and her further realisation that Gary has always known this and the reasons why. One of the divides most reflective of our time, to me, is that divide between Anouk (the career woman) and Rosie (the stay-at-home-mum).
The issues of race were prevalent, with many being represented. But it was not as simple as “black and white”. It goes much further into an area that is not often talked about: true racism in that it is not just about colour, but about cultural heritage. Koula, for example, (Greek, a “wog”) has such great hatred/disapproval for Aisha because she is Indian and also for Bilal, an Aboriginal man who is also an Islamic-convert. Koula is also judgemental of the Australezi (represented by Gary and Rosie) – the country she has made her home. To Koula, the Greek way is the best way.
Initially I thought I would be drawn to the perspective of a particular character, and though I did feel more strongly about some, instead I found myself isolated from all of them and their experiences. This book is so powerful in it ability to prompt such deep reactions to it.