WINNER OF THE COMMONWEALTH WRITERS' PRIZE 2009
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2010
'A tremendously vital book in every sense.' - Sunday Times
At a suburban barbecue one afternoon, a man slaps an unruly boy.
The boy is not his son.
It is a single act of violence, but the slap reverberates through the lives of everyone who witnesses it happen.
Christos Tsiolkas presents the impact of this apparently minor domestic incident through the eyes of eight of those who witness it. The result is an unflinching interrogation of the life of the modern family, a deeply thought-provoking novel about boundaries and their limits...
This astute exploration of suburban aspirations and failings, winner of the Commonwealth Prize and Tsiolkas's first novel to be published in the U.S., opens at a barbecue in Melbourne, Australia, where nearly two dozen characters are introduced in the opening vignette. The reader barely has time to absorb their names and relationships before the pivotal event occurs: a man, Harry, slaps a bratty child who is threatening his son. At the center of the altercation are Hector, Harry's cousin, and Hector's wife, Aisha, who is friends with Rosie, the mother of the boy who's been slapped. When Rosie and her alcoholic husband press charges, longstanding relationships threaten to fall apart. Told from eight perspectives, each of which gets a novella-like chapter, the novel vividly demonstrates the wide-ranging effects of a single moment's rash decision on characters as varied as Harry's 71-year-old uncle and a high school student coming to terms with his sexuality. Beyond simply igniting the plot, the fateful slap draws attention to generational and philosophical differences regarding family life and the complex political, social, and ethnic milieu of contemporary Australia.