P J's Reviews > The Slap

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
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M 50x66
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Sep 21, 11

bookshelves: fiction
Read in July, 2010

I had a few problems with cultural differences here. Perhaps you need to come from Melbourne or at least Australia. ‘Wog’ is not a word I hear much nowadays but I suspect it means something different in Melbourne from what it means in Manchester. Almost every other page left me with the feeling that I wasn’t sure that I understood something - ‘Muzzie’, ‘ute’, ‘Bombers footy beanie’, ‘dacks’, ‘skip’, ‘tradie’ etc etc. All a reminder that we speak American and that Australian is a different language.
In ‘The Slap’ all the male characters are wankers, and not just figuratively. The females are more attractive apart from two: the racist Greek grandmother Koula with her contempt for all non-Greek people and cultures – in particular her beautiful, intelligent daughter-in-law Aisha referred as ‘The Indian’ and anyone who is ‘Australian’; and the idiotic Rosie, still breast-feeding her three-rear-old spoiled brat Hugo, the recipient of the Slap of the title.
Cultural differences play a large part in this book. There is the Aboriginal Terry, convert to Islam, best friends with Hector, the son of Manolis and Koula and husband of Aisha. There is alcoholic working-class Gary, husband of Rosie. There is talented, beautiful Anouk, writer of Soap Operas, lover of a young Soap actor, and best friends forever with Aisha and Rosie. And there is Sandi, mother of Rocco, and somewhat downtrodden (once horrifically beaten) wife of Harry, cousin of Hector and deliverer of ‘the slap’. There’s young Connie, assistant to Aisha and groped by Hector. There is Connie’s best friend, gay Richie, childminder to Hugo and with a hopeless fixation on Hector. In such an atmosphere ‘the slap’ is the final straw and friendships disintegrate messily.
The traditional Greek family rally to Harry. Koula with righteous indignation. Of going to the police about ‘the slap’ Grandfather Manolis says “We’d deal with it like men, not like animals the way those filthy Australian degenerates did”. This is about reporting an assault mind – quite a cultural gap here. Ecttora (Hector) is less enthusiastic but sees no alternative – its family first. Cousin Harry, the subject of this loyalty is a total shit; a bully constantly on the boil and about to explode. He undermines his wife with his young son and keeps a mistress. And of course he is sometimes free with his fists.
An extremely enjoyable yet frustrating read with superb characters, even if you can’t decide which of them actually does deserve a bit of slapping. The morality is actually quite simple. What ‘The Slap’ does really well is to show how people can avoid seeing it when there are other perceived loyalties. Almost a metaphor for patriotism.
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