The Slap

GoodreadsTitle: The Slap

Author: Christos Tsiolkas

Published: Allen & Unwin, 2008



At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.

This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, friends and relatives, who are all directly or indirectly influenced by the slap.

In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question the way they live, their expectations and dreams, their beliefs and desires.

What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity – all the passions and conflicting loyalties – that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of commitment and happiness, compromise and truth.



I read “The Slap” by Christos Tsiolkas when it first came out a few years ago. I definitely had mixed emotions about it, I loved a number of things – it was incredibly well written and the story just flowed. It was set in Melbourne which I relished – I could immerse myself even further into it as I knew the area it was set in.

I HATED all of the characters. Which I’m OK with. Any author who can have me disliking all of his characters and still loving the book is good by me. I liked that he dealt with a hot topic, provoking many a (heated, I’m sure!) discussion between friends who may differ in opinion.

I read it again for my book club a while ago. Ours is a pretty informal style book club, just a group of friends catching up over good food and wine and a book. But boy with this one were there some different opinions! The interesting thing was, everyone’s opinions on this were strong. Everyone was either vehemently against disciplining other peoples children/other people disciplining their children, or they were of the ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ mindset.

I have engaged in this conversation with a few different groups of friends, and it never ceases to amaze me that those with children just don’t feel that those without children have a valid opinion. No, I don’t have children. But does that mean my opinion doesn’t count? Surely not. Sure, my opinion may change when I do have children, but then again, it may not. I know women with children on both sides of the fence. Some who are for discipline, and also some who are against.

I have also watched the TV series, and I was quite impressed. I thought it was well cast and I still didn’t like any of the characters. No, I lie. I liked Anouk. Who, admittedly, wasn’t particularly central to the storyline. I found most of the others to be lying, manipulative, immature people who were only interested in themselves. I also thought the event was well portrayed, not sugar-coated. And all of these same discussions were re-visited!

My personal (currently childless) opinion is that I would be happy to have my child disciplined – though I can’t say I’d be happy with physical violence like was portrayed in the show – by someone else, had I left the child in their care. In the understanding that this is clearly a person I trust. And I would expect my (at this point theoretical) child to behave at someone else’s house. And vice versa. That’s todays thought.


3 thoughts on “The Slap

  1. I really hated this book. I think it’s because I hated ALL the characters — pretty much because they all seemed the same. I don’t think everyone in a group of people uses the exact same language all the time. As far as the message goes … I believe in discipline — not beating your child or anything, but a stern voice, time outs, something to hammer home the message that they need to hear — but I don’t believe in other people taking the matter into their own hands. It’s one thing when safety is at hand, like if a child is about to touch a hot stove and someone corrects them, but to just go ahead and hit someone else’s child? I don’t think that’s right.

    Great review!

    • Thanks! I get what you’re saying about the language thing, but I also think this is a family and close knit friend group, and I know when I am with different groups of friends my mannerisms, phrases and words I use adapt a little. Not exactly like everyone else, but a little, for sure. But I’m not sure I’m explaining myself clearly.

      I also totally agree – you should never just go on and hit a child. Any child. In the TV show the scene was quite clear – the child in question was throwing a tantrum, kicking and trying to hit other children and adults with a cricket bat, and the non-parent took the bat away and slapped him. I absolutely agree the situation needed to be diffused, but the open palmed slap went too far IMO. This was a grown man vs. a 4 year old.

      Definitely a hot topic with people strongly on both sides.

  2. Pingback: Too Much Choice! | my novel addiction

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