The Slap

This is a review of “The Slap” by Christos Tsiolakis. The Slap has also been made into a BBC series that aired on ABC on Australian television in 2011. Unfortunately it was repeated late last year and I missed it 😦 I don’t know when it will be on again.

A group of friends and family are enjoying a BBQ in suburban Melbourne. The night is progressing quite normally without too much drama, until a young boy is slapped by a man who is not his father. Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective. We get an insight into their perception of the incident and we find out more about them and their lives.

There’s Hector. The slap took place at his house, and was meted out by his cousin Harry. Deep down Hector thinks the kid deserved it, but outwardly he agrees with his wife Aisha, that his cousin should not have done it. Hector’s got a pretty good life. He’s got a beautiful wife, two kids and he’s aged well. He likes his life. But he’s got a pretty awful secret…

Anouk is Aisha’s best friend. She’s childless and writes the script for a tv soap. It isn’t what she really wants to do (it’s a bit trashy) but it pays good money. She’s dating one of the young actors from the show. She too thinks that the kid needed to be disciplined, but she’s not a mother, so her friends don’t think her opinion should count for much. Anouk’s thinking of heading in a new direction in her life. What will her future hold? The publication of her serious novel? Or maybe marriage, kids?

Harry is the slapper. The kid deserved it. He was threatening Harry’s son with a cricket bat for god’s sake! What was he meant to do? Maybe he shouldn’t have slapped him, but his parents weren’t doing anything. Harry loves his life. He has got everything he wants. Hot wife, perfect son, amazing house. And now this. It could ruin everything. The stupid mother has got the police involved, and there’s talk of the media. How could everything go so wrong so quickly?

Connie works for Aisha at her Veterinary Practice. She’s a teenager, 17. She thinks that no child should be slapped. But then again, she’s almost a child herself. After the BBQ she begins babysitting the slapped boy, Hugo. She’s in her final year of high school, and she lives with her Aunt Tasha. Her best friend is Richie. She’s got a secret too. And it’s the same as Hector’s…

Rosie is the mother of Hugo, the slapped boy. She is outraged and appalled at the man who “bashed” her son. She wants him punished. She’s taking him to court. Her husband Gary has a drinking problem, which she tries to ignore. She wasn’t sure about motherhood when she first had Hugo, but she’s determined to show him he’s loved. She’s quite lonely. She can’t wait to see the animal that hit her son punished.

Manolis is Hector’s father and Harry’s uncle. He’s growing old, and he’s seeing his friends around him die. He supports Harry in this slapping debacle. After all, he’s family. And if that woman was a better mother, none of this would have happened. He’s a bit bewildered and dismayed by how these young people are handling things. He just wishes Aisha would support her family and not her friend.

Aisha is Hector’s wife, and best friend to Anouk and Rosie. She is Connie’s boss. She thinks Harry was very wrong to have hit Hugo. And the incident has brought up a memory she prefers would stay hidden. She’s tempted by another man while away at a Veterinary Conference. She goes on a holiday with Hector, which turns out to be nothing like she had expected.

Richie is Connie’s best friend. They go to school together. Recently he’s confessed to her that he thinks he’s gay. Connie doesn’t mind, she understands him. He’s got crushes on inappropriate people, and he’s got a lot of teenage angst. He sometimes helps Connie babysit Hugo. Connie’s told him her secret. But feeling guilty she’s twisted it a little, and when he can’t bear to keep her secret any longer, the consequences are pretty awful.

I really liked this book. I couldn’t stop reading it. It was great. I could identify with the characters a lot. Going through similar things as a teenager as Connie, and similar feelings as Rosie regarding motherhood. I liked the Australian-ness of the book and also the multicultural elements. I didn’t really like the negative feel about extended breastfeeding that was expressed by the characters in the book, but I guess it is reflective of today’s society. I liked that it explored attitudes to hitting children. It was well written and a really intriguing book.

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