I finally finished this book! You might not believe me, but this has been a long battle and the fact that I managed to finish it should earn me a pat on the back. My book club choose this book for our monthly read almost a year ago and right from the first page I knew that this is not going to be a pleasant read. Don’t get me wrong, I am not prude and I don’t mind a bit of bad language if it serves a good purpose in the story, but this book went completely off rails. Right from first paragraph you are bombarded with swearwords left, right and centre, no matter whether it is male or female character, old or young. It is almost as if no one can express themselves unless they swear. I am not sure to which extend is this a portrait of current australian society (I really hope it isn’t) and to which extend it is the author’s poor observational skills or/and influence of the people surrounding him. Or maybe the author is just trying too hard and the result is just appalling.
Apart the foul language, the book is filled with constant sex, abrupt bursts of unbelievable violence (nope, not talking about the slap itself) and a bit of a story line. Before I started to read this book I was hoping that it would offer a moral discussion about the slap itself, how different generations see it, how different cultures see it etc. but I couldn’t be more wrong! The book offers a precious little on this and the slap itself is just a minor event in the whole book. I really wonder why the author choose it as a title! Maybe it would be harder to market and sell so many copies if he had chosen a random swear word for the title – which would be much more appropriate if you ask me, because at least you would know that you are willingly buying a garbage.
In regards to the characters, well, neither of them is pleasant enough for the reader to care for them. They are a random bunch of greedy, angry, drunken, lecherous, lying, self-obsessed, woman-hating, homophobic and unbelievably racist people. I don’t think there is anything more to add to this.
As I said before, I started this book almost a year ago and managed to read seven out of the eight chapters and had to give up. I couldn’t take the abuse from the book anymore and it is not like me not to finish a book. But this one was particularly bad. Well, the book was looking at me from my bedside table for so long, that it was about a time to bite the bullet and finish it. And actually the last chapter wasn’t half as bad, definitely the best out of the book.
By the way, this book was a winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2009!!! Honestly, how was that possible is beyond me! Did any of the judges read the book?! I purely refuse to believe that the other books (runner ups) were worse than this one, because that would have been a disastrous year for the commonwealth books! I don’t approve any mishandling of books or damaging them on purpose but this one would be my first choice to throw in bonfire. I truly believe that future generations wouldn’t miss much if this book was never written…
You can only imagine my shock when I read in one magazine that the ABC is making a drama series out of this book! First I dismissed it completely, but then I got curious to see how is the ABC going to tackle this material. And to be honest I quite liked the series! I was pleased to see that ABC more or less stayed true to the original material, they just really mellowed the language (you wouldn’t be able to broadcast the original no matter what time of the night), mellowed the excessive violence and the ever-present sex and made it an interesting series. All the actors played their part very well and I could see that they fit the descriptions from the book to a T.
So if you are still curious about The Slap and want to know the full story, then I would recommend to avoid the book like a plague and rent out the ABC series on a DVD.