When you can’t look away

This month, my mums’ book club decided to read Chris Tsiolkas’ The Slap. We might have been jumping on the bandwagon somewhat, but given that the TV series was being shown on the ABC, it seemed fitting for those of us who’d not read the book to catch up with the rest of the Australian population.

As I said on Facebook, this novel is a bit like a car crash; decidedly unpleasant, but I just couldn’t seem to look away. It is, to say the very least, compelling.

Now, I’m not going to review The Slap, as such. Lots has already been said about this cleverly constructed book, and I don’t think I need to go over it again. Instead, I’ll share with you a link to The First Tuesday Book Club’s assessment of the novel, which you can watch here. I think the panel say it pretty well. They’ve got some really interesting perspectives on the story and its characters, some of which I agree with, others not so much.

I will say that I enjoyed the structure of this book, framing chapters as characters worked incredibly well in offering multiple perspectives of environment and conflict and the obviously Melbourne-based setting made the story frighteningly (and regrettably?) relatable.

Tsiolkas’ bleak portrayal of relationships hurt my heart. I felt for these characters, as deplorable as they might have been, and wished better for them. At the same time, I was quietly pleased that none of my current relationships seem so hopelessly doomed.

It has been really interesting talking to people about this book, and I’m guessing that this is possibly the greatest appeal of both the novel and the TV series. To be honest, I’m not that interested in whether people think the slap itself was good or bad, deserved or abusive. I did on the other hand find it fascinating to discover which characters my friends were drawn to and equally, those they despised. Every person, including myself seems to identify differently with this book, with its intriguing characters and the issues they grapple with. For that reason, this book is exciting, revealing and confronting.

I was relieved when I came to the end of The Slap, initially anyway. Interestedly though, a few hours after reading the last pages I started to miss these crazy, horrible, fallible characters. To wonder what would happen next for them, and whether they’d find resolution. I think I’ll imagine them a happy ending…

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