The Slap ……

I completed a really interesting book last night – The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

I got it from bookclub, and that was of course just after the slight sniffing and the rather judgmental statement of “it is never right to slap a child….”  That being said, I was first to grab this little beauty off the “new book” pile.

The basic premise of the book is this: an obnoxious four year old child does something faintly threatening at a family barbecue, and the father of the threatened child smacks the child. Everyone is so upset by this that the barbecue breaks up in a hurry, and within a day, the parents of the slapped child have the slapper arrested.  (there is no need for a spoil alert, as this is plastered on the book jacket as well)

On reading the jacket blurb your mind will immediately start thinking about how this person slapped this child, and what if it was your child, and then your cheeks will get red in anger. 

However then your mind will backtrack to the last time you were at the Spur, and you can think of at least three children (neither of them yours, or maybe one of them was) who you would have felt quite justified for standing up and slapping.

Actually it might even be fair to say you would get back into your car now, drive to the Spur and slap that child right now.

Each chapter of the book is written from a different person’s perspective.  Initially I thought it might be about how they each saw the event, but it is about how the event (the slap at the braai) effected these individuals in their lives after the event.  (pre-slap vs post-slap)

The really great thing about The Slap is that it cannot be neatly summarised. The book is about exploring the inner lives of these eight characters, four women and four men, ranging in age from 18 to 70. And each of these characters is a sharp observer of those around him or her, so many more lives are illuminated as well from a different characters perspective.

The book is not written from the standard American angle, of event, middle with lots of action and then closing where the good guy is vindicated.

The novel’s forward energy is unexpectedly overwhelming, you literally get sucked into the rather messy lives of these people, who at first glance seemed normal and ordinary.

You get to peek behind the facades and see how they are trying to keep their lives together while the sh&t is literally raining down on them.

No one is evil, no one deserves to be hit, or even judged negatively (but the reality is that we do judge, we might do it internally but we do judge).

Everyone means well, and everyone is doing the best he or she can; but then again, everyone is awfully angry, and everyone is just getting through thier days the best way they can.

I really enjoyed this book – it is not light and fluffy, but at the same time it is not a heavy brain drain either.  The characters and the flow is fast and furious  – I flew through this book, because I could not get enough of these people.

Excellent book!  (I dare you to judge the situation at the outset, like I did, and then review your judgment at the end, and realise that you have probably travelled a long road of understanding with these characters.)

Do I think it is right to slap a stranger’s child?  No.

Do I think that many parents do not adequately parent their children? Yes.

Do I think that many children become problems because they were not parented well, and did not learn the value of consequences? Yes.

Do I think Joan River’s show about her commenting on fashion on E Entertainment is hysterically funny?  Yes.

Is it correct to assume the last question has absolutely no relevance to the book? Yes.

Leave a comment


  1. pamiejane

     /  April 5, 2011

    I have also just read this book – and agree. The parents should have been slapped, repeatedly….

    In general I enjoyed the book, it was different to read a book set in Australia for a change.

    • reluctantmom

       /  April 5, 2011

      Definitely … also sort of sat that and at a certain point, I realised that the parents were so set on raising thier child in this mother-earth everyone-at-peace sort of way, that at the end of it all they were making it so that thier child has some serious social issues …. but that being said, they were all struggling with life ….. yes I enjoyed the writing style as well.

  2. Oh it’s the parent’s fault, no question. Slap the mom/dad

  3. Claire

     /  March 2, 2011

    Perhaps we shouldn’t be allowed to smack a child that is not our own… but we should be allowed to smack the parents of the child for not smacking their child & for allowing their child to be so disobedient that it warrants this sort of conversation in the first place 🙂

    • Kennith

       /  March 2, 2011

      Claire, you are spot on because seldom is it the childs fault, but one of parents who don’t set or enforce boundaries and rules. Smack the parent I say!!

    • reluctantmom

       /  March 2, 2011

      Oh Claire, can I run outside and carve your name on a tree “I heart Claire” right now! So true, and so doable!!


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