The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

If you are not easily offended, The Slap is one hell of a book. I just now randomly opened it and counted half a dozen raunchy references to sex and another half dozen expletives. Tsiolkas throws around the ‘c’ word like he’s talking about making a cup of tea. Yet, The Slap is a very human story, albeit one filled with polarizing characters.

At our book club discussion, our moderator (that’s the person who chooses the book) asked us to write the name of the most reprehensible character on a slip of paper. Then she asked us to name the most sympathetic character. She wanted our thoughts on paper before we began talking and were swayed by opposing opinions. Then we began to discuss the book – the premise of which is simple enough. A group of disparate characters gather at the Melbourne home of Hector and Aisha for a barbeque. Hector is a gorgeous Greek man and Aisha is from India and owns her own veterinary clinic. They have a couple young kids. There are cousins and parents and friends and co-workers in attendance. One of the guests slaps the face of four-year-old, Hugo, who was going to – so the slapper thought – bash his son with a cricket bat. Hugo’s parents press charges.

But The Slap isn’t really a book about what becomes of Hugo and his parents or how the trial plays out. Tsiolkas drops in and out of the lives of various characters (one at a time a la Jodi Picoult only WAY more sophisticated and profane), giving us snapshots of their lives and insight into their feelings about the slap. We don’t hear from every character at the bbq and, interestingly enough, some of the characters we do hear from seem like unusual choices. The beauty of the book, though, is that we do get to know the characters well, feeling empathy, admiration and repulsion in equal measure – sometimes all at once for the same character.

The Slap, as another member of our group pointed out, is quite unlike anything else our group has ever read…and that’s saying something considering we’ve been meeting for 13 years. It isn’t just the language – which takes some getting used to even for someone like me who has been known to drop the occasional ‘f-bomb.’ Several of us agreed that we had a visceral reaction to the book and the characters: hard drinking, racist, violent, irreverent and funny drug users – the whole lot.  The Slap is thrumming with energy. It is almost impossible to put down.

Tsiolkas has important things to say about love, though – not just the love between a man and a woman, but the love between friends,  and parents and children.

This, finally, was love. This was its shape and essence, once the lust and ecstasy and danger and adventure had gone. Love, at its core, was negotiation, the surrender of two individuals to the messy, banal, domestic realities of sharing a life together. In this way, in love, she could secure a familiar happiness.

The Slap is an excellent novel.

@Lookshelves with thanks to @BellasBookshelf for the original link

I recently had friends for dinner and when the first couple arrived, my friend R. ran his hands along my bookshelves and said, “So much nicer than an eReader.” I have to agree. If there’s a bookshelf somewhere, I generally make a bee-line for it to see what’s been read.

Here’s a site that allows the bookish voyeur in us all to peruse all sorts of different bookshelves. Not only do we get a gander at the shelves, the owner of the shelf answers a handful of questions. I haven’t added my shelves…but I won’t be able to resist the siren call of this site for long!


Another blog I enjoy Dot Scribbles by @dot_scribbles

“I have always loved reading from an early age and I don’t think that will ever change,” says Dot, mistress of Dot Scribbles, a UK-based blog. Dot is a voracious reader – although I suspect that being a new mom (her daughter, Darcey, is just a few weeks old) is eating up a considerable amount of her reading time.

Dot reads everything and her reviews are accessible and user-friendly. I never ever visit Dot Scribbles without adding a handful of titles to my tbr list.

Visit Dot Scribbles.

Some thoughts about The Hunger Games – movie and book

Even though I teach high school English, I haven’t always made time for YA reading until recently. I read a lot more of it now because my kids are voracious readers and a trip to the bookstore always means a few books for them, too. Both my kids read The Hunger Games eons ago and insisted that I read it, too.  I finally got around to it last year.

Here is the review I wrote with my daughter at the time.

When we knew that the movie was coming to our local multiplex, my son insisted that we go buy our tickets in advance. Nothing but the first show would suffice for him. He and his friend actually got to the cinema hours in advance -which was  lucky for my daughter and  I. We couldn’t get there until closer to the start time because of other committments. In the packed theatre, Con had saved us excellent seats.

So, how did the movie compare? It was really good. Not perfect, of course, but really good.

*spoiler alert*

Some rambling thoughts….

Things I liked:

1. Jennifer Lawrence was an excellent Katniss, embodying the vulnerability and grim determination needed to make us believe in her.

2. The Capital was cotton candy creepy – just as I’d imagined it.

3. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta exceeded my expectations. The actor wasn’t physically what I’d imagined – I mean, he’s shorter than Lawrence, for goodness sake. Still, I ended up liking him. And believing in him.

4. Effie Trinket. (Elizabeth Banks) Loved her.

5. President Snow. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Canadian Donald Sutherland, but he was deliciously, subtly evil.

6. It was cool to see behind-the-scenes of the tv show – to see how the games were manipulated.


When the movie opened with Caeser Flickerman and Seneca Crane, I have to admit, I had my doubts. I’m not sure it was necessary to frame the movie like this, really. I would have preferred the movie stick to the book’s opening – letting us see Katniss have her morning with Gale (whom I loved, btw, even though he didn’t really have much to do). For me, this is where a movie like this is always going to be disappointing.

I didn’t like how Katniss came to have the Mockingjay pin. Someone gave it to her in the market. (Was that meant to be Greasy Sae? She looked way too kind-hearted.) And really, gave it to her? Hmmm. Okay.

I wish that the mutant mutts scene had been handled differently – more like the book. There was extra meaning in the scene as Collins wrote it – Katniss’s realization of who the mutts were. I liked it better. Yes I shreiked,  as did everyone else in the theatre, when that mutt sprang out of the dark. But why couldn’t they have handled it like the book? I wonder what the reason was for changing it?

As for the other Tributes – even though Collins didn’t spend a lot of time allowing us to get to know them in the novel I still felt more attached to them in the book. I mean, I cried when Rue died both times that I read it. (And yes, I cried in the movie, too.) That said, I found Cato’s on-screen death quite compelling because he was revealed to be what he actually was: a kid afraid to die. (But the long drawn out death scene in the novel still had more impact.)

My kids loved the movie. I thought the movie was terrific.

But not as good as the book.