So even though I badly wanted to stop reading The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, I read until the bitter end.
The premise of The Slap is that, at a suburban BBQ in Australia, a pain in the ass kid gets slapped by someone who is not his parent. This one moment obviously has repercussions for everyone involved, which becomes clear as the fallout is described by eight of the people who were there.
The one saving grace about this book is that it was readable. The dialogue was sharp, the language wasn’t convoluted and I could get through some pages if I sat down with it for a bit.
The problem was that I didn’t want to.
Even the last night that I was reading it, I had an overwhelming urge to throw the book across the room.
I don’t need to like characters to spend time with them. Some great books are written about some terrible people. But Tsiolkas’ characters were racist, misogynistic, cruel, intolerant and gross. The male characters (with one exception) all looked at women as things to have sex with, had incredibly archaic ideas about marriage and family and had impressive cruel streaks in them. The women all put up with men who were terrible to them, felt like they were whores for enjoying sex and had no backbone at all.
Reading The Slap did nothing to make me want to visit Australia. Tsiolkas writes about his homeland with bile and bitterness, describing people as trash or snobs or as immigrants (like that’s a bad thing).
In the middle of the book, when one of his female characters cries wolf about having been raped, I almost walked away. It wasn’t even a useful plot device as almost nothing comes of it and what does happen, literally happens in the last 10 pages. But it’s so incredibly irresponsible – it just furthers the myth that women cry rape all the time and it shouldn’t be taken seriously. PLUS, the other women don’t believe it anyway, which again, is so damaging.
And the sex! Every section has so much sex. Which again, I’m not a prude, I don’t care. But come up with some better language. Reading the c-word over and over, reading about cocks every other page…it’s jarring and gets old fast.
I am so glad to be done with this book. Now I wish I had stuck with The Grapes of Wrath so I could have walked away from The Slap.