‘The Slap’ is a book by Christos Tsiolkas, an Australian author. It is not a book I would have picked up unless recommended and I read it because it was the chosen book at my book club. And having read it, I must say I cannot wait for my book club meet up to discuss it!
The book starts off at Aisha’s and Hector’s home where they are hosting a BBQ for their family and friends. Hector is of Greek ethnicity (like the author) while Aisha is of Indian ethnicity. They have two children, Adam and Melissa. They both work, Aisha as a vet in her own practice, and Hector in the public sector. They are a middle-class Australian family living in suburban Melbourne. At their barbie, the guests include Aisha’s best friends Anouk (with her boyfriend Rhys) and Rosie (with her husband Gary and 4 year old son, Hugo), Hector’s parents (Koula and Manolis), Hector’s cousin Harry and his wife Sandi and son Rocco, Hector’s sister Elizabeth and her 2 children, Aisha’s work-mate Tracey, her son Ritchie and the teenage girl at Aisha’s work, Connie, as well as 2 of Hector’s mates from work and Aisha’s brother, Ravi. The ones in bold are the characters in the book that are focused on.
At the barbie, we are introduced to the main event: The Slap. Hugo who is behaving like a brat, is slapped by Harry. And all hell breaks loose. Rosie and Gary decide to file charges for assault against Harry. Hector, Anouk, Koula and Manolis think Hugo deserved what he got and believe that Rosie and Gary are taking things too far. On the other hand, Aisha is enraged that Harry, who she doesn’t like, hit the son of her best friend at her house and Connie, Ritchie and Hector’s sister seem to think the same.
The book is divided into chapters based on these characters and thereby gets us to see not only their views about the slap and the aftermath but also other areas of their life. For instance, in Hector’s chapter, you read about his infidelity as well as his love for his wife. In Anouk’s chapter, you read about her relationship with a man 20 years her junior and how she hates being judged for not wanting to have kids as well as her views about society today. In Rosie’s chapter, you see why Hugo is the way he is. You see the messed up relationship he has with his mother and his parents’ messed up relationship as well. You see the weird parenting that is resulting in Hugo behaving like a brat. In Harry’s chapter, you see him for who he really is…a rich person, a narcissist, a man craving for other’s attention, a bully, an infidel, an abuser. In Connie’s chapter, you see her history of losing both parents, her relationship with her aunt and her conflict over her love and affair with Hector…all as a Year 12 student. In Ritchie’s chapter, you see his own conflict with his sexuality and his worries about his feelings not being reciprocated, you see a confused teenager.In Aisha’s chapter, you see her betrayal, you see her narcissism and the reasons why she is staying with her husband despite not even possibly liking him.
The book has it all: sex and drugs and alcohol. Dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional relationships. No rock and roll though.
Through these characters, the author looks at society today. And it was a depressing view. It had me disillusioned and distressed. It made me wonder why bother to live in this world if this is what things are like.
A totally messed up society…where the victim stays with the abuser, where spouses cheat on one another, where parents provide alcohol and drugs to underage teenagers, where people have affairs with those that are underage, where new parenting views are taken to the nth degree resulting in bratty and disrespectful children (who by the way, end up coming to me later for therapy!!), where a husband and wife stay together and continue to manipulate each other. But all these individuals wear their mask and no one in the world knows the truth. Everyone is viewed as either successful or ‘normal’ and beautiful….while inside, each and every one of them is battling their own demons. And is broken in their own way.
The Slap is just one bit (which in case you were wondering, I do not condone…I’m okay with smacking but nothing else). It’s how society reacts to it and deals with it along with other battles in their lives is what this book is about. It shows you how messed up we all are. How we all wear our masks day in and day out apparently even to our near and dear ones. And we just go on with life.
Normality is over-rated. It does not exist. Because no one knows what it is to be normal.
The book is an interesting read and definitely raises several issues. My rating would be 4. But be warned, you just may feel disillusioned with the world around you, particularly if you are a melancholic individual like yours truly!