Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)
Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review Wednesday by Belle

The Slap
by Christos Tsiolkas

Reviewed by Belle

This book is certainly thought-provoking, though I can think of few other positive adjectives to describe it. Most of the 8 stories in the book aren’t actually about the slap (if you haven’t already heard, at the beginning of the book a man at a BBQ hits a child who isn’t his).

According to the blurb and many rave reviews (and this is what scared me most about the book), The Slap is about things like parenting and commitment and everyday life. I really hope that’s not actually true; to quote Disey, who commented on a review of the first TV episode, “If this is an example of “today's Melbourne”, then all I can say is ‘yuk!’” It’s full of ugly language, ugly sex and ugly, angry and selfish characters who are utterly unlikeable. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. (The ABC series may be a different matter, as the language and sex in particular will have to be toned down drastically for its timeslot... You're allowed to watch that, if you want to.)

Thanks for the review! Belle blogs at Belle's Elbows.

25 comments:

Karen said...

I read it a couple of years ago. Thought much the same thing as you. Didn't relate to any of the characters in it. Everyone was so self-absorbed (and from the bits I've seen of the TV series, it doesn't seem as if the sex has been toned down much either....)

Alistair Bain said...

Hi Belle. Thanks for the review.

I've had lots of people tell me the same thing as you about the book and I've taken their advice and not read it.

So why has it been so popular.

I saw the author interviewed by Jennifer Byrne a few weeks ago and he seemed a nice guy (you can watch it here: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/).

Joanna said...

Thanks Belle, I was just thinking about getting this out of the library. As a Melbourne dweller I'm curious about the depiction of life here! But I take your warning...

Karen said...

@Alistair...I saw some of that interview on Compass too and thought the same thing...he seemed like a nice bloke, but that seemed very at odds with the characters in his book...

Belle said...

Karen, I agree that the sex hasn't been toned down too much. After seeing the first couple of episodes, I don't think I'll be watching the rest.

Alistair, I really don't know why it's been so popular! It's such a yukky depiction of life that I don't want to believe that it's been popular because many people relate to it.

Perhaps it's because there have been people who passionately love it and people who passionately hate it; everyone wants to know whose side they're on.

Alistair Bain said...

Belle

I might just read it to find out what all the fuss is about. I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff.

Ben McLaughlin said...

We flicked it on last night to see what it was all about. Alex Dimitriades was being particularly rude and sweary so we went back to Beauty and the Geek.

Karen said...

I watched again last night, but no more. By the end I wanted to slap the whole lot of them. Alex's character was particularly appalling but no one else was likeable either. Just like the book....
Next week I'm switching to Beauty and the Geek as well. Or maybe I'll read a good Christian book...

Pedro said...

Do people not like it because its VERY close to how the everyday person DOES act?
I could see so many people I know in the characters in the series.
Why is it so deplorable for a happy gay man to write a book about some not so happy australians?
The characters are pretty rank. I thnk thats the point.
The story though is good and challenging I think. Makes you question and consider your own actions to situations on more than one level.
There should be more books and series that take this approach.

Karen said...

Most of my friends don't act like these people... unless they are leading very deceptive lives....

What I saw in the book (and now on the TV ) was people making very poor choices about their behaviour/ parenting/relationships with other people.

Maybe there are questions to be asked about that (and perhaps that is what Christos was getting at when he wrote it). But reading it from my perspective as a Christian, it just felt very wrong on many levels.

I don't have a problem with questioning how we respond to our own and others' actions though, and do agree that more authors & TV scriptwriters should do this :) I guess the confronting way in which it is done in this book is guaranteed to get people talking.

Alistair Bain said...

Well I watched it last night.

And I found it gripping.

I know people like Alex's character. And people like his wife. I'm friends with them actually. The anger that Alex is living with is pretty common I think in lots of men.

In fact, I think it's a very real representation of our society (perhaps being a criminal and family lawyer for 8 years means I've seen things most people haven't).

Karen. Lots of people do make very poor choices about lots of things (heck - I do).

Anyway. I think I'll read the book. It seems like one of those stories that cuts very close to the bone. And I like them.

Alistair Bain said...

BTW. I think all the characters in The Great Gatsby are pathetic and dumb. Butr it's my favourite book of all time I think.

I see in Fitzgerald's characters so much of what I see around me. And a fair bit of what I see in the mirror too.

Pedro said...

Sometimes it's good for one to have that mirror put up in front of us just to remind us who we are and that these things happen every day whether we want to admit it or not.
OR we could turn our eyes away and watch the soul enriching 'entertainment' that's made from parading unattractive men around with women who would never even consider sharing the same footpath as them much less a life and watch xthe carnage as they display slow inevitable destruction of thedir remaining self esteem for the pleasure of the viewer.
Theres no yukky or self obsessed characters in that scenario at all.

Alistair Bain said...

I'm with Pedro on this one.

Karen said...

:)

OK guys. Points taken. I do maintain that it's hard to find anything likeable about the Slap people though. I just don't know if we need reminding about how sinful we (and others in society, those I come across in my working life if not in my friendship circle) are. I know that I am a sinner, I don't need books/TV shows to remind me.

Nor do I mind flawed characters in books, as long as they have some likeable aspects I can relate to. Might have to read the Great Gatsby again, haven't read it since high school days.

I just think that at a time when there are so many competing demands for our attention, and we are being challenged to "not waste our lives" (quoting John Piper here), there are probably better things we could do with our time...so I may just switch off the TV on Thursday evening next week :)

Haven't seen any of Beauty and the Geek this season, but allegedly last year one of my cousins (a somewhat nerdy PhD palaeontologist) was approached on several occasions to participate, as a geek obviously. At least he had the gumption to say no!?

ALaird said...

My 2 cents:) I think it's a brilliant book, but that doesn't mean I think there's anything admirable about any of the characters in it.

For me it's the Australian version of a film like American Beauty (or TV series like Mad Men). All these people living seemingly perfect lives, but when you get behind the front door you realise how flawed everyone is. The facade of perfect lives, with everything in order is, just that, a facade.

And as a few of us who were chatting about it last night said, we all know people just like the characters in this book - colleagues, neighbours, family.

I've been having some very interesting conversations with my neighbour about the book and what it exposes about humanity.

But also I agree with the warnings here - very strong language and themes.

Karen said...

The weird thing is that I love Mad Men!? Based on the "characters are flawed but somehow remain likeable" argument...

Ben McLaughlin said...

Just reading over the weekends' comments I was going to bring up Mad Men as well, Lairdy.

I only just started watching a few weeks back, and have seen most of season 1 now. I thought I'd hate it after a couple of eps- particularly as Don Draper the central character seemed so two faced and unfaithful. But I'm now loving that series, and though DD is still fairly unlikable, its fascinating finding out what makes him tick, and where his attitudes stemmed from etc.

i'm notorious for switching stuff off if I can't find a likable character, and I think that's ok, but still it does seem like it's also completely fair enough to watch and be interested in something without characters you neccessarily like.

ps- nice job on getting people talking, Belle!

Karen said...

I may have gotten a little bit carried away commenting...sorry about that. I think the difference between MM and The Slap is that over four series of MM there is plenty of opportunity for character development. And DD has become more likeable (to me anyway) as the series has progressed. I think you'll love it :)

Belle said...

Aw, man! I thought I'd subscribed to see follow-up comments, but obviously I hadn't. I'm glad a discussion was sparked!

In case anyone still cares:

Pedro: I agree with Karen that a huge reason I didn't enjoy the book was that I didn't relate to any of the characters, nor could I see how any of them were similar to the people around me. Perhaps that's because I can't see into other peoples' heads, though I'd love to believe that the men around me (in particular) aren't looking at other women and thinking of them as whores.

It's also interesting that you mentioned Tsiolkas' homosexuality - I did wonder after finishing the book how much that had impacted on his overly negative representation of heterosexual marriage (the sex being so male-centred and often rough, affairs being normal, to name just two examples). I'm happy for happy gay men to write about anything, but I won't necessarily trust what they have to say about heterosexual male thoughts/sex, or heterosexual female thoughts/sex, for that matter.

Having said that, I agree that Beauty and the Geek is no better an alternative. :o)

Alistair: It'd be interesting to see what you think of it, although, seeing from your profile that you're a Christian, I'll continue to discourage you from reading it because (as your sister in Christ) I care more for your purity than about you having an informed opinion on this book. Philippians 4:8 comes to mind...

Ben: If you're the only one who sees this rambly comment, SORRY! Couldn't help myself. :o)

Ben McLaughlin said...

Funny that you missed the biggest discussion a book review wed has ever had:)

Belle said...

Not funny! Note to self: MAKE SURE YOU SUBSCRIBE TO COMMENTS IN FUTURE, particularly when an interesting debate is likely to take place! Gah.

Karen said...

Yes indeed Belle, was wondering where you were!? Was hoping for someone to back me up :) I couldn't seem to stop posting...waiting for a baby to arrive here so I had way too much time on my hands :)

Ben McLaughlin said...

I think there's a proverb about someone who starts a heated conversation and then heads for the hills...

Karen- all the best!

Belle said...

I'm sorry for abandoning you, Karen! And yay about the baby! Hope it arrives safely and at the right time. :o)