2009 Commonwealth Writer's Prize Recommended books

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009

I think that The Slap is the most male book I have ever read. If you want to gain an insight into the male mind, then this book is essential reading, but I warn you that it isn’t a pretty sight. It is packed with swear words, thoughts on sex and an obsession with ‘the male dangly bits!’ This book is the male version of ‘chick lit’ and gives an insight into a male’s view of society that is rarely talked about.

The book begins at a suburban barbecue, where a three-year-old child is running riot. The father of another child slaps the toddler, as the toddler tries to injure his son. Everyone is shocked, and the guests at the barbecue are divided between those who thought the three-year-old’s parents should have had more control over their son, and those who thought that no-one should ever slap a child, especially one who isn’t there own. The book switches between the views of several guests at the party, and I loved the way that my opinion was changed after hearing things from each new perspective.

…These kids, they’re unbelievable. It’s like the world owes them everything. They’ve been spoilt by their parents and by their teachers and by the fu**ing media to believe that they all have these rights but no responsibilities so they have no decency, no moral values whatsoever. They’re selfish, ignorant little s**ts. I can’t stand them.

The debate over parental responsibility and slapping has caused a big stir in Australia, where this book originates, but I think this book covers all angles of the subject well. The book is easy to read, fast paced and has a satisfying ending.

The graphic sex, abusive language and controversial subject means that this book isn’t for everyone, but it will generate debate and isn’t that a great thing for a book to do?




Have you read this book? Were you shocked and offended?

Do you think it is right for such a graphic book to win a prestigious prize?

41 replies on “The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas”

mee – You’re lucky it is even in your library – It isn’t released here in the UK – I had to import my copy from New Zealand (it was cheaper there than Australia!) I hope those people in your library read it quickly!

I think this sounds like an interesting read. It’s an argument I’d like to see both sides of. I don’t think it matters that it’s graphic. It’s a controversial and emotional subject and athough I haven’t read it, I don’t think it could be done without being graphic.

Jo – I agree that this subject probably needs a bit of abusive language to make it realistic, but this book goes beyond that. The men in this book really are obsessed with sexual pleasure of one form or another, and there are swear words in every other sentence. It was very interesting thogh, and I guess there are a lot of people who do swear that much.

Hmmm, I do actually know a few people who swear in virtually every sentence they say (mostly men), and athough it doesn’t offend me, it does irritate me.

Never heard of this one, never mind read it! 😉 I don’t exactly have anything about books being very “in your face”, but I know that that can narrow a book’s appeal… I don’t know that this one is for me given your review. It sounds like this one was purposefully trying to be controversial – to tackle a tough topic is one thing, but all the other stuff (the sex and abusive language) may just be there to stir the pot.

Violet – I think you’d probably like it. I hope you get round to reading it one day.

Jo – I know a few people like that too- it annoys me a lot! I’m not easily offended though!

Steph – Whatever it is trying to do – it worked! It managed to get itself a big book award and a lot of notice. The book is very good really. It is a bit of a shame that it took ‘the other stuff’ a bit far.

I can imagine that this would cause some spirited discussions at book club meetings! I have to say I’m intrigued by it! And I love the idea of “guy lit” or whatever it would be called. Let’s see how they like it!

Jenners – Yes – this book would be perfect for a tolerant book group. I can imagine all the debate!

Where did you manage to get this book from? I have tried all the uK book retailers to absolutely no avail and would love to read it, sounds very very interesting and quite different in terms of fiction around at the moment. I think that a book as graphic as this deserves to win prizes as long as its in context and the book needs it, I think that when its just ‘to shock’ thats when is just pointless.

Simon – I bought it from an Internet retailer in New Zealand (cost me £17). My copy is now up for sale on Amazon UK, but it is quite pricey! (£32) It is probably worth waiting until it is published over here, as I do these things for my business I can justify the price of importing.

I love the way you have called this book “guy-lit” – that makes it sound interesting and different – I can’t think of another book I have read that I would place in that category. I am still trying to decide if I am going to read this one or not – it has caused a lot of discussion in Australia – mostly good I have to say. The graphic nature of the book wouldn’t put me off reading it – I’m just trying to decide if I would enjoy it or not. I guess there is only one way to find out!!

This sounds very interesting. I don’t think “graphic-ness” should affect whether or not something wins an award. All words are tools for a writer to use. How effectively he or she uses them should determine who wins an award.

This is an interesting issue for a book. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

I agree The Slap is neither pretty or polite, but is well written and provocative. ( In my case, After reading it I was itching to slap Hector.)

In this interview, Tsiolkas said “When someone says of a book or a film or a play that it was ‘too hard’ I think they have been made conflicted, uncomfortable. That discomfort is sometimes what is most precious to me about great art.” I certainly think you can see this in The Slap!

Karen – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book I could place in the same category as this either. Give it a try – it is worth is just for the novelty!

CBJames – This is a very well written book, so I do think it deserves to win. I noticed that a lot of people were pleased that it didn’t win the Miles Franklin award though!

Cathy – I look forward to reading your thoughts on it if you get a chance to read it.

Sarah – Great interview – thanks for the link!

I remember when the book first came out here in Australia that the reviews were rather good but as time went on I started to hear a sharp divide amongst readers. It seems it is one of those books you either love or hate – no middle ground. And it seems women tend to tell you that it contains a lot of sex while men yend to say nary a word about it – what does this say I wonder?

I started this recently, but haven’t been back to it in a few days, because I never picked up any book while on a short break. I suppose I’ll be starting it again. No problem, as I was barely forty pages in.

Surely dick-lit is the term for guy-lit, if only to rhyme it off with chick-lit? Saying that, I can see what you mean about the swearing as noticed by guys and gals. From the forty pages I read, I barely recall any swearing. Now, when returning to it shortly, I won’t be able to help being more conscious of it.

Very interesting! I just can’t bring myself to use the term “dick-lit”, however appropriate it may be. 🙂 We do need to coin a good G-rated phrase for books like this though!


I am so annoyed with myself!! I was enjoying reading this book, Christos skilfully draws you into each set of characters…I got just past the ‘Manolis’ chapter and then went and left it in my basket at the self-service section of Tesco’s…I went running back and of course customer service had not had it handed in and I am loathed to pay another £16.99. Can anyone enlighten me on the conclusion of the book without spoiling it for others on here?

Paul, I’m afraid that I can’t remember how it ends and I no longer have a copy to look it up for you 🙁 I’m not sure what that says about the book! I vividly remember some sections from the book, but the ending escapes me. I’m really sorry to hear that you lost your copy – perhaps you can borrow one from the library?

Thanks for getting back to me Jackie….I did check my local library just out of interest and to see if they had it, they did and had 14 people on the waiting list! I may go and see if Amazon has a used copy for sale, sellers usually have a few at greatly reduced publishers prices….seems stupid for 10 pages!

Hi Guys, I’m born & bred Melb and really was impressed by the Slap when it came out. It captures the inner city middle class( I live inner city) really well-Christos is gay but captures all characters men and women, straight and gay very well. I think its the best Oz book in 10 years but some peopel are put off by its honesty – read it it will tell you much more about Melb Australia than Neighbours ever will.

Just finished reading this (a bit late on the boat, I know). I’ve got to agree that it is quite a masculine book, although I’d hate to think anyone would extrapolate the male character’s thoughts and attitudes to the wider male population. Still, maybe I don’t know men all that well :S

And not to further emphasis my status as a delicate flower, but I really found the frequency of the sex and bad language unnecessary.

Oh dear, off to butch up now. Cheerio.

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