I heard the buzz about this book. It was making the rounds of all my friends and the reviews were positive. So, it was a good push for me to give Tsiolkas another try, I’d read “Jesus Man” and found it a hard go, the writing voice itself didn’t resonate with me, and the exploration of the darkness of the narrator also repelled. I don’t need fiction to be sweetness and light, but I’m more drawn to hope than despair.
With that in mind, I’m bowled over by “The Slap”. The darkness is there, characters that hate and have violent thoughts and want to annihilate themselves and others, but they’re balanced by other wavelengths, sometimes in the same people. I found the eight main characters who tell this story believable and interesting, and a compelling look on the whole at the society they make up. I’ve met these folks in Australia, read about them and see them on TV but I’m not sure I’ve read about them, deeply imagined, conflicted, human, Tsiolkas inhabits his characters so that readers have the opportunity to move beyond judgement – though it sounds like that is one of the things that is making this novel so exciting is how readers are taking sides, of the characters and on the book.
I wanted to get back to the story as soon as it put down, a page-turner in the best sense, not driven by a formula for suspense but a real interest in where the story will go, who gets to tell it to us, and what happens next. Tsiolkas is not a writer whose prose I particularly notice, I don’t get caught noticing a particular turn of phrase, but the way that he describes his characters, their lives, and drives the story along: I thought it was magnificent. And as hinted above, I like a happy ending – and the novel’s end, with both its resolution and happy possibility, made me smile, top to toe.
I’m looking forward to the TV series adaptation!
[Thanks to Chris for my copy!]