Monday, June 01, 2009

slap: book review of Christos Tsiolkas

With a holiday weekend forecast for showers and sleet, it was off to Borders for some fireside reading. The Slap by Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas caught my eye and less than 24 hours later, the last (of 483) page has turned.

Great read. A beautifully constructed portrayal of contemporary (Australian) family life. Writing first person, and thus stepping inside the skin of another is an art, yet Tsiolkas handles a wide range of characters – male and female, married and single, gay and straight – with ease.

The book begins with a family barbeque and a man slapping an errant child. The moment becomes a faultline for exploring what it means to human today – to raise children, to age, to migrate, to believe.

Centred on the suburb of Preston (streets I’ve walked with good friends) it deftly captures the pluralism and multi-cultural tensions of contemporary Australia – the racism of Australian pubs, the monosyllabic, yet internet-connected existence of teenagers, the laugh out loud descriptions of the suburbs:

“It was a tacky pokies pub in the middle of nowhere, boganville. Every street looked the same, every house looked the same, everybody looked the same. It was where you came to die. Zombies lived here. He could hear them monotonously tapping away at the machines.”

A book like this should be compulsory reading for all those doing ministry today, a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing snapshot of the tensions of contemporary living, of love that endures, of the hope found in friendship.

(Winner of 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize).

Posted by steve at 12:35 PM


  1. Steve,

    Hope you are well. If you want more of that sort of narrative I recommend Steven Carrols trilogy. Especially the third, which won the Miles Franklin, The Time we have taken.



    Comment by Andrew — June 2, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  2. Hi Steve. I haven’t read ‘Slap’ but it is now on the list. If you are into Australian authors may I recommend Tim Winton; especially ‘Cloud Street’- another ‘narrative’ novel. Great book dealing with, amongst other things, human weakness, love, loyalty, disappointment, repentance, forgiveness and reconcilliation. I loved it. Best book I have read in ages!


    Comment by Chris McLeod — June 2, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  3. Thanks Chris. I tried to read Cloud Street and failed to finish it. Up till then, I had really liked Tim Winton’s Dirt Street, Breathe and The Turning. But Cloud Street was just a bit too long for me!


    Comment by steve — June 2, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

  4. If you want to read an easy read that should be compulsory reading for all adults get a copy of “Sins of the Father” by Fleur Beale (awardwinning NZ author). It is an emotive story of redemption and forgiveness. Google it and read the reviews. Made NZ #1 bestseller lists a month ago.

    Comment by Karen — June 2, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  5. Steve, with ‘cloud street’ the ending makes the book, I think. But may not be your thing. After reading ‘Cloud Street’ I found the others a bit of a let down. Its funny, isn’t it, how some books move us and others don’t; despite the big wrap from others. Look forward to reading Slap. I’ll read it after the next essay! I’ll let you know what I think. Chris

    Comment by Chris McLeod — June 3, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  6. ah, the old hang on for the ending trick! it was a holiday read, borrowed from the local library, that didn’t seem to be worth paying a fine on!


    Comment by steve — June 3, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  7. Karen,
    would you like to do a “guest blog review” of “Sins of the Fathers” to put up on the blog here? I’ve been thinking of you in recent weeks, wondering if you’ve read the book and how you would respond to it. Would be great to have something like that up on the blog,


    Comment by steve — June 3, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  8. Sure I could do one if you think it appropriate and/or helpful. I did a very brief one for what used to be GamePlanet and is now called something else. Of course they didn’t know that I was related to the subject material at all. It is a fantastic book. Would you like me to whip something up on Word and email it to you for you to look at and post if you were happy with it?

    Comment by Karen — June 4, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

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