The Slap

Suddenly you emigrate to another country. Packing all your belongings and in no time you have a to-do-list from the Netherlands to Tokyo. No, I did not move to Tokyo, but to Australia.

That was possible on a 4-year work visa. Citizenship test not necessary. Until you realize that you actually know little about the country. How many inhabitants does it have, who is the prime minister, when are the national holidays or celebrations, what are the biggest sport events, who are the tv stars and which Australian writers should I read? Just before my departure my parents gave me the book The Slap from the Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas. It is anything but a citizenship test, but this book provides a surprising insight into Australian family life and society.

The book takes off when a group of friends and family gather for a barbecue. You can’t make it more Australian. “Are you coming to our barbie”? Huh what…..Barbie doll…..oh no, the Australians like abbreviations. Barbie (BBQ), brekkie (breakfast), bestie (best friend), ute (pick up truck), tinny (small aluminum boat), vedgies (vegetables), sunnies (sunglasses), roo (kangeroo), swag (large sleeping bag / tent), stubbie (cover for your beer bottle), schooner (medium beer glass), brizzy (Brisbane) and last but not least Oz (Australia). After a while you will really start to use them yourself!

Well, where was I…..the book…..and the barbecue. All guests arrive and then you are waiting for the slap, literally. One of the parents slaps a child, not his own child. The kid in question is little brat, but hitting a child is obviously out of the question. All those who are present have their own opinion of what has happened. What would you do if it were your child? Or what would you do if this situation occurs at your garden party? It’s all very uncomfortable.

The writer uses the incident to follow the lives of eight main characters, each with their own chapter. Some family ties and friendships become closer and some are at stake. Love, adultery, religion, cultural origin and coming out of the closet, it will all be discussed.

The use of language is occasionally pretty rough, and abusive language and racist remarks are not avoided. Is that bad? I don’t think so. The usually friendly relaxed Australian may not find this book representative. Though I believe the writer is hitting a sore spot. Australia is a melting pot of its original inhabitants and different groups of immigrants. These cultures and also generations live together peacefully, but clash just as well.

ABC TV has made an 8-part tv show in Australia. Just like the book, every episode is filmed from the perspective of one of the eight main characters. Watch the trailer below.

Obviously, the tv show is great, the book is far better. The book won several Australian book prizes and The Slap was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Click on this link to buy on The Bookdepository or click on the book below to buy on Amazon.

Interested in the TV show, check the link below.

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