Paul Bryant's Reviews > The Slap

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
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's review
Sep 08, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: novels
Read from September 08 to 09, 2012

Thank you Christos Tsiolkas... you finally made my mind up for me and I have flung your horrid novel away from me in a graceless convulsion which mixed repulsion and depression in equal parts, with a dash of glee.

Because for many pages I was desperately seeking a casus belli. Something I could put my finger on. I was a closet Slap-hater at this point. I couldn't quite admit the horror of this novel to myself. I needed to find something definite, a line in the print where I could say

thus far and no farther

On and on I read. And finally one such moment arrived on page 225.

The scene is the grimy household of Rosie and Gary and their son Hugo who is somewhere between three and four years of age. Hugo is the slapee of the story. Now one of the things about Hugo is that he's still suckling at his mother's breast, which everyone thinks is a bit gross, because he's nearly four, you know, and I was agreeing with this since every single time Hugo hove into view he was like a nipple-seeking missile aiming straight at his mum's brassiere and we would get another description of the act and everyone's reaction to the act.

Every time.

So now here on p225 we have Gary, the sex-starved husband, wrestling with his young son for control of the breasts

She was feeding Hugo on the couch when Gary walked back into the room... He came and stood over them. He watched his son suck contentedly from Rose's tit.
'I want some of that.'
Rosie frowned. 'Don't Gaz.'
'I do. i want some of your boobie.'
Hugo dropped his nipple and looked mutinously at his father. 'No. It's mine.'
'No. it isn't,'
Hugo looked at her for encouragement. 'Whose boobies are they?
'They belong to all of us,' she said, laughing.

Then the atmosphere turns nasty and Gary and the kid begin to squabble viciously about the breasts.

At this point I murmered "Thank you, Christos! At last! I knew you had it in you!" , placed the novel down upon my reading desk and prepared for the traditional flinging at wall ceremony.



P 150! - The thing is, I have seven - seven! books I really actually do want to read coming my way very soon. I hear the tramp tramp tramp of the feet of several burly postmen. This book - not so much. But you know the feeling when you walk out of the shop and you get home and you just don't remember stuffing the two packs of sausages, three packs of wafer-thin Wiltshire ham and two small jars of marmite down your kecks? So here I am on p 150. I don't know how I got here or how I'm going to get out of this geyser of Ozzie soapsuds. Can there really be another 330 pages to go?

The Shangri-Las :

PB, is that a bestseller you got there? Uh-huh? Gee, it must be great reading it all day. By the way, where'd you get it?

Pb (dressed in black leather, channelling Mary Weiss) : I met it in the Sainsbury store – 60% off. You get the picture?

Shangs : Yes, we see

Pb : That's when I became…
A reader of The Slap.

My friends were always putting it down
Shangs : Down, down
Only good for the beach they said with a frown
Shangs : Frown, frown
They told me it was bad
And I knew I'd been had
I'm sorry I started it – reader of The Slap

The page 100 decision – to continue or to not continue, that is the question.

Well, what about this blurb on the back? This is bugging me -

This event reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it happen.

Is that even grammatical? I would have thought EITHER

This event reverberates through the lives of everyone who sees it happen


This event reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it

No need for the "happen". The "happen" is otiose. So the blurb writer can't write.

But... I dunno. Maybe I'll continue. It's so long. These modern writers, they must get paid by the word. Never mind the quality, feel the width.


On Goodreads they all stop and stare
They can't hide the sneers but I don't care
I think I've become a –

Reader of The Slap

(motorbike noises, fade)

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Reading Progress

09/08/2012 page 100
09/09/2012 page 150
30.0% "this could not be mistaken for Henry James."
02/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)

message 1: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia This Shangri-Las pastiche is among my favourite things I've seen on GR. I must go and listen to some more of their stuff too.

message 3: by Antonomasia (last edited Sep 14, 2012 04:54AM) (new)

Antonomasia Yes. Great stuff. Nearly the opposite of my sentiments but undoubtedly heart-wrenching for some. And oh, that tune!
For a few years I've wanted to reconstruct some Readers Digest 50's and 60's compilations my mum had (one started with Leader of the Pack, so I tried again just now and I just found all the tracklistings. Sorry, nowt to do with middlebrow Australian novels, but I'm so happy!

message 4: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant if you ever get stuck with a particular 60s track please note they're ALL on youtube!

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan The blurb's not grammatically wrong. It's semantically wrong. Love this review by the way!

message 6: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant okay, I'll accept that - we agree it's wrong!. And thanks.

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan It most definitely, certainly, positively is wrong. [sic]

Mark i hated this book. Tsolkias has such an incredibly nasty circle of friends...or at least I assume he must know these people cos surely no imagination could actually create such an appalling bunch of drunks, racists and sluts

message 9: by Terri (new)

Terri I get to enjoy Paul Bryant's review AND I don't have to read The Slap. Woohoo!

message 10: by Anji (new)

Anji OOOOOOH! If I ever need a good chuckle and a great popculture allusion, you do not disappoint, Paul. A reader of the Slap...

vroom vroom!

message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant thanks you guys - I have saved you a lot of time here!

message 12: by Orla (new)

Orla Hegarty My Mum is trudging through this one for her book club (she's on page 383). She and I enjoyed your review enormously. Thanks!

message 13: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant it's my pleasure - I wish I'd got yo your mum before the book club made its fateful choice.

message 14: by Philipc (new)

Philipc Wow!

Philippa I wish I'd read your review before I wasted good money buying this obnoxious hateful book. I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I don't think a book has made me feel so incensed ever before! I loathed it with a passion!!!!
Your Reader of The Slap was far more entertaining than the book!!! Thank you.

message 16: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Beaulieu Well, thank you to "The Slap"! If I hadn't waded through the whole horrible misanthropic slop of it, I never would have logged on here to read this hilarious review! On the other hand, if I had read this review first, I wouldn't have kept going because "everyone else" said it was so good. Either way, I feel refreshed and cleansed by this review, and god knows I needed it after that nasty nasty cave of a book.

Sarah Turberville My, my: 'obnoxious' 'hateful'. Perhaps because there was a bit of all us in this book, which resonates Melbourne and its people, is the reason for the negative commentary?

message 18: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Sounds like Hugo AND his entire family deserve to be slapped!!

I'm so glad I read this review. From the blurb, I was tempted to add it to my reading list (was wavering actually) and then my eyes were opened! *insert angelic choir here* Thank you!! You've saved me from all the screaming, stomping on, ripping of pages, throwing across the room, etc. that would've no doubt happened if I'd attempted to read this.

message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant you're welcome!

message 20: by T.D. (new)

T.D. Whittle Because for many pages I was desperately seeking a casus belli. Something I could put my finger on. I was a closet Slap-hater at this point.

Me too. I live here in Melbourne, so I have had it as a sort of albatross rotting on my virtual To Read shelf for years (I think, can't be bothered to check), out of some kind of fellow-feeling with other Melbournians who read books and stuff. Oh yes, and the writer is from here, too.

I feel somehow like I can bury or eat my albatross now, because that scene you just described is only entertaining when it's on Little Britain.

message 21: by Lilo (new)

Lilo Is there a shelf "Want NOT to read"?

message 22: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant td, i know the feeling that you feel you have to support the local boy. I live in Nottingham England so the local boy here is.... DH Lawrence. Hey actually, he's pretty good. In an incomprehensible frothing at the mouth protofascist kind of way.

message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna I tried to read this book. Clunky writing. Embarrassing marital sex scene. I gave up before the kid even got slapped .

message 24: by T.D. (last edited Oct 15, 2013 08:49AM) (new)

T.D. Whittle Paul wrote: "td, i know the feeling that you feel you have to support the local boy. I live in Nottingham England so the local boy here is.... DH Lawrence. Hey actually, he's pretty good. In an incomprehensible..."

Ha ha. You can't really bang on about how much you hated Kangaroo and expect to get away with stuffing the sausages into your baggy chinos, I guess (even though no one ever read Kangaroo probably).

Sandra Thank god I didn't get that far!!

message 26: by Will (new)

Will I have doubts about reading this book. I unfortunately saw the tv show before reading it and it was awful. Normally I wouldn't. If I can find a copy to read for free I will.

message 27: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant No, don't!

message 28: by Will (new)

Will I can't help but laugh that my first reaction to your comment is "do the opposite" Christos brings out the rebellious teenager in me somehow hahaha

message 29: by Philipc (new)

Philipc Funny, Christos is famous in Australia. Gets interviewed, asked to write think-pieces in intellectual Australian magazines with miniscule circulations. Can Australians really be so clueless as you let on? My own theory is that it's all to do with multiculturalism, because by golly this is one multicultural novel. I haven't read it, life's too short, but the phonemolonemoen is curious. (That word had too many syllabubbles for an Australian).

message 30: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant We are very multicultural here in Britain, my word. I hope you do not detect any anti-Australianism in my review. Perish the thought. We love Ozzies here. Although we have just put Rolf Harris on trial.

message 31: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Regrettably, Australians seem to believe in multiculturalism in the same proportion that they believe in the need to combat climate change.

message 32: by Manny (new)

Manny I am memorizing key passages from this review. I'm sure they will be very useful next time I visit Australia.

message 33: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant Well I hope you don't get chucked in a billabong.

message 34: by Crystal Dawn (new)

Crystal Dawn I assure you, as an Australian, we are nothing like this! Well the people I know anyway as I have heard some dodgy stories.
I haven't read the book yet, although I did hear it was pushing the bounds on the 'controversial' act of Breast feeding that we Australians seem to fuss over. Thanks for making me giggle over the boob war.

message 35: by brianna (new)

brianna Your review just saved me time, I just learned this book existed today and it sounds so bad.

Dillwynia Peter I enjoyed the book - but then I see it as a bitchy comment on Howard era society in Australia. I've wondered if it is a cultural thing. I am very aware of missing stuff from Thatcher era novels, because I managed to miss most of that era by living somewhere else.

Tsiolkas is VERY Melbourne-centric & that too is apparent to me in the book. Melbourne has the enormous Greek population, followed by Italians & SE Asians; Sydney is SE Asians, followed by Italians & Greeks. That & the weather makes all the difference in how folks behave & thus react.

I was saddened this book didn't work for you, but life is too short to waste time giving it a 2nd attempt.I suspect you won't like Barracuda either.

Dillwynia Peter Paul wrote: "Well I hope you don't get chucked in a billabong."

Billabongs may be muddy, but usually they are exposed bodies of water that can be quite shallow. Just clarifying any small misconceptions.

One day I shall bore you with the differences between flood-outs & swamps :-p

message 38: by Ian (last edited Feb 14, 2015 01:33AM) (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Now that my attention has been brought back to this review after over two years, I realise I'm still perplexed by the blurb.

My perplexitatiousness derives from this construction: "everyone who witnesses it" assumes that "everyone" is singular, because "witnesses" is singular, and it would be "witness" if it was/were (this is getting so hard) plural.

In contrast, the event reverberates through the "lives" of everyone, which is plural, unless it assumes that each of us has multiple lives like a cat.

Is the blurb inconsistent? Ungrammatical?

I wish my grammar was alive and could still assist.

Is there anyone who can help me, or otherwise put me out of my misery?

message 39: by Lilo (last edited Feb 14, 2015 12:05PM) (new)

Lilo Ian wrote: "Now that my attention has been brought back to this review after over two years, I realise I'm still perplexed by the blurb.

My perplexitatiousness derives from this construction: "everyone who wi..."

Oh, dear! As an ESL writer, I keep struggling with such finesses of grammar. And I just happened to come across that I had erroneously used the word "misogynist" on some review thread instead of "misanthropist", making a fool of myself. What makes it worse is that I don't remember which comment thread this was. (I wish someone had corrected me.) I think, you Ian, had also been commenting on this thread. If you should remember or happen to come across this thread again, would you please let me know so that I can fix this.

And you know something: Getting older does not help with such problems. ;-)

message 40: by Jill (new)

Jill Bowman Thank you. It's been waiting for me to finish a few others and now I can't renew it at the library. I will now happily hand it, unmourned, to the next patron!

message 41: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn You saved my literary life, for the next few days at least, with your hilarious review. On to much finer works of fiction.

message 42: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant My pleasure Kathryn. A finer work of fiction that The Slap? Hmm, what could it be. You set yourself a real challenge there.

message 43: by Daisy (new)

Daisy Holtel This may possibly be the best review I have ever read.

Teresa Mills-clark Precisely!

Shane That's a lot of effort for a novel you hated. Will have to look for other reviews of books you loved. I guess it all depends on why you read. To have all your ideas and beliefs confirmed and to be made all warm and fuzzy inside. Or to have your views challenged, perhaps be made a little uncomfortable. I'm from melbourne but I know many Rosie's from all countries and cultures. If the idea of a woman breastfeeding far beyond what is socially acceptable and a husband competing with a child for the affection of a woman makes you hurl a rather large book, then tsiolkas has done what I think he set out to do.

message 46: by Paul (last edited Jun 24, 2015 02:11AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant well, I guess. I'm not all about the warm & cuddly. I did like Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls and American Death Songs, and also Cows by Matthew Stokoe - those books have the ick factor turned up to 11 on their amps.

Shane Don't know those books. I was just surprised anyone would go to such trouble to trash somebody else's hard work. I checked out your profile and you and tsiolkas are more alike than you might imagine. Melbourne is a small town. I'm probably over personalising. Have a good day.

message 48: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant thanks.... but GR is a book review site, and if I don't like a novel many people think is great, I do need to figure out why. In most ways The Slap was exactly my kind of thing - vicious social satire - so I was puzzled why it was misfiring so badly for me.

message 49: by Johanna (new)

Johanna You always make me laugh. Love the Shangri-Las take-off.

message 50: by Ella (new) - added it

Ella Gave up at page 77. Yuksville. Totally agree with this hilarious review.

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