Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Slap (soon to be an NBC miniseries) returns in an “immensely moving” (Sunday Times) story of a young athlete’s coming of age
Fourteen-year-old Daniel Kelly is special. Despite his upbringing in working-class Melbourne, he knows that his astonishing ability in the swimming pool has the potential to transform his life, silence the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship, and take him far beyond his neighborhood, possibly to international stardom and an Olympic medal. Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of this dream. But what happens when the talent that makes you special fails you? When the goal that you’ve been pursuing for as long as you can remember ends in humiliation and loss?
Twenty years later, Dan is in Scotland, terrified to tell his partner about his past, afraid that revealing what he has done will make him unlovable. When he is called upon to return home to his family, the moment of violence in the wake of his defeat that changed his life forever comes back to him in terrifying detail, and he struggles to believe that he’ll be able to make amends. Haunted by shame, Dan relives the intervening years he spent in prison, where the optimism of his childhood was completely foreign.
Tender, savage, and blazingly brilliant, Barracuda is a novel about dreams and disillusionment, friendship and family, class, identity, and the cost of success. As Daniel loses everything, he learns what it means to be a good person—and what it takes to become one.
Tsiolkas (The Slap) tells the story of the pressures of trying to live up to high expectations. Relentlessly bullied at the elite Australian private high school he attends on scholarship, working-class Dan Kelly shows early promise as a swimmer. With the hopes of his parents, coach, and suddenly envious classmates riding on him, Dan becomes fixated on winning at all costs. But when he places fifth at his first international championship race, he breaks down, lashing out violently at his former friends and turns to alcohol for consolation. When a masochistic affair with the wealthy Martin Taylor brings Dan's sexual identity to the fore, he finds himself at the breaking point and comes close to committing murder. He spends some time in prison, and, after his release, he travels to his family's homeland in Glasgow, where he falls in love with the angelic Clyde. But before he can get too involved, he must return to Australia, face his mistakes, and try to reconcile with his struggling family. The novel has all the early signs of a classic failure narrative along the lines of Exley's A Fan's Notes, but it loses direction in its second half. Additionally, the alternating chapters in which the contemporary Dan speaks in the first-person are actually more distant than the more affecting third-person parts. This story never quite realizes its full potential but Tsiolkas's sincerity qualifies it as solidly middleweight.