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Packing a Punch   Leave a comment

Considering the content of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, this book probably warrants an R rating; not
for violence as the title might suggest, but its strong sexual content and graphic language. That aside,
this Australian Literary Society Gold Medal winner is riveting in its cross-cultural, cross-generational look
at parenting, friendship, family and marriage.

Told from eight different perspectives, the story follows the events that lead to and from an adult slapping
the young child of another couple at a family barbecue. It’s a slap felt by everyone related to, or friends
with, hosts Hector and Aisha. The ripple effects go well beyond the afternoon gathering.

Although there are eight different viewpoints, including Hector and Aisha’s, the omniscient narrator remains
the same, and the story moves forward rather than being retold from various angles. This is a clever way to
demonstrate the impact without repeating the actual event multiple times. The slap is never far from the sur-
face, but neither is is it a repetitive action. The ultimate question within the book – and for readers, as
well – becomes which side is right: those who agree with the boy being slapped and those who don’t.

The primary weakness of the novel is the whiney, self-absorbed characters who populate it. With few excep-
tions, it is hard to feel an affinity with any of them. Sure, it was a bratty four-year-old child who was hit,
but some of the other characters might have benefitted from a quick smack, too.

Three and a half Bookmarks
Penguin Books, 2010
482 pages

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Posted November 17, 2011 by bluepagespecial in Books

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