The book in question: The Slap
So after all the hoopla about Uma Thurman’s face and all of the publicity it generated for her new show, I decided to see what ‘The Slap’ was about and saw that it was based on a book. The summary makes it sound compelling:
At a barbecue in suburban Melbourne, a man slaps a three-year-old boy across the face. The child, Hugo, has been misbehaving without any intervention by his parents, “the steely-eyed Rosie and the wimpish Gary”. The slapper is Harry, cousin of the barbecue host and adulterous businessman whose slightly older son, Rocco, is being threatened by Hugo. This event sends the other characters “into a spiral, agonising and arguing over the notion that striking a child can ever be justified. Some believe a naughty boy should be taught some discipline others maintain the police ought to be brought in to investigate a common assault” with a range of positions in between.
The book, however, is a pile of steaming garbage. Whoever wrote the summary is a genius. It’s not so much about a slap as it is a slap to the face to anyone with a fully functioning brain. The whole thing was just terrible. There were no redeeming qualities. At all. The book opened with some guy who was having some kind of affair with a sixteen year old veterinary assistant who works for his wife. Oh and he kind of hates his four year old son. And apparently doing speed in the middle of a family barbecue is okay and no one will notice. I was rather bemused at first by all of the silliness but after ten pages of it, I was already side-eyeing the author.
The actual slap is over in a matter of seconds and comes way too late in the book. By that point, I was already appalled. The way the book is written just makes it even more irritating. Each section is told from a different point of view by characters at the barbecue. That would be interesting if THE CHAPTERS WERE ACTUALLY ABOUT THE SLAP. But nope, they’re about the character and how awful they are (and how much they like to say the C word, because that makes writing so edgy), with maybe a passing mention of the slap.
The sixteen year old from the beginning, Connie, got a chapter and it is one of the most vapid, bizarre things I’ve ever read. We were treated to a particular explicit scene where she did something stupid with a shampoo bottle (see the last part I highlighted in the image below)
WHO DOES THAT? WHY WOULD ANY AUTHOR INCLUDE THAT IN THE BOOK? WHY DO WE CARE?
On top of that her father was a HIV positive bisexual who basically knowingly infected her mother. I have no idea what the reader was supposed to take from that either. Especially when the same character wishes she wasn’t so tolerant so she could throw some derogatory remarks at her gay best friend, just for kicks. Later on in the book, she lies and tells said best friend that the guy she was having the affair with (her boss’ husband) molested her. When her best friend tries to tell people, she lies and says it was him who was obsessed with guy. So the best friend falsely admits to it (why? We never find out!), gets slapped by his mother and runs home to swallow some pills. At this point, the book had already descended into some kind of soap opera-ish farce. But still… What the fuck does this have to do with the slap? And it was painfully obvious throughout the book that SOMEONE would be attempting suicide that the author basically just chucked it in there in about two pages. I was so appalled that I skim read to the end which was bland and uninspiring. I had high hopes they’d all be swept away but some kind of freak SyFy esque shark attack but nope.
I read somewhere that this book is misogynistic but I don’t even think it is. It’s people-gynistic. Or whatever. There was a undertone of racism throughout the whole thing, which, is basically kind of like a boring Australian (where the book is set) stereotype. Stereotypes might be true in same cases, but I don’t see the point in writing a pointless book about stupid, horrible people who don’t seem to undergo any change within the course of the story.
Take for instance, Harry, the perpetrator of the slap. He’s supposedly a self-made, wealthy business man who was just protecting his son. Of course by the time we get to his chapter he’s waxing lyrical about how much he wants to kill the child he slapped, as well as the parents. He’s also been having an affair with some woman (probably the least worst thing about him). He sort of switches between wanting to kill his wife and not wanting to (I THINK?!!!). He acts like he’s distressed about the slap and going to jail because so far he’s only ever had one misdemeanor, back when he was kid. Naturally, we find out later that he basically beats his wife on the regular, once to the point where he broke her jaw. Though the parents of the kid who was slapped are so awful themselves that I found it hard to give a shit when they took their case to the police.
I think the most abhorrent thing about this book is the way it just REFUSES to end. The chapter from the POV of some 70 year old man (someone’s father, maybe) literally sent me to sleep. It was about funerals and dying and just, I get this this is supposed to be some kind of social commentary on life in Australia for all ages, blah, blah but there’s probably someone out there who’s done a better job… a much, much better job. This book is just…awful.
At one point I was outrage-highlighting but I gave up in despair. Here are some parts I did highlight though:
To conclude, avoid this book at all costs! It’s just douchebags being douchebags.