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).