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Join Christos Tsiolkas to talk about THE SLAP - our March Book of the Month - on Weds 23 March, 8-9pm

(175 Posts)
TillyBookClub Thu 17-Feb-11 11:54:58

Our March Book of the Month has inflamed critics, readers and journalists across the world. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, is also a Top Ten bestseller in the UK, Australia and Canada. A zeitgeist-capturing exploration of multiculturalism and the limitations of liberal values, it will definitely provoke some strong reactions...

Atlantic books are offering 100 copies of The Slap to Mumsnetters. To bag your copy before they run out, please email with your full postal address and "Mumsnet The Slap offer" in the email subject line.

We'll post on this thread once the copies have all been sent out but if you're not lucky enough to bag a free copy, buy it here instead.

We are delighted that Christos will be joining us on Wednesday 23 March, 8-9 pm, for the bookclub discussion - look forward to seeing you all there...

blimey Wed 23-Mar-11 21:10:13

hi Christos, are you there?
if so just wanted to say I really enjoyed the book, thank you.

MrsKwazii Wed 23-Mar-11 21:11:57

Thanks again Christos, will be looking out for A Moveable Feast!

SerialComma Wed 23-Mar-11 21:13:54

Thank you very much for your thoughtful answer.

"I didn't understand complexity and ambiguity as a pre-pubescant but it meant that I wasn't afraid and stricken by inaction a few years later when ambiguity and complexity became part of life."

Yes! as children we can absorb un-understood things and almost revel in the mystery. Even an unknown long word is an object that children can play with. Adults seem more afraid to allow children that incomprehension now.

Agree with you and Anouk that publishers sell us short.

ChristosTsiolkas Wed 23-Mar-11 21:15:07


Hello Christos
Personally, I'm not sure about the accusations of misogyny but I do think they aren't to do with the misogynistic characters in the book (do you think certain characters are misogynistic?) but rather to do with the depiction of the female characters - Rosie in particular. She comes across as more of a caricature than the other characters to me, with less effort to understand her reaction to the slap and the tone when describing her is more of ridicule.
My question is do you like her less than the other characters, or feel you understand her less? She's definitely the character I least liked and understood, which is odd because on paper she's probably the one I resemble the most. Or maybe that's more about my own prejudices - and maybe that's the point (sorry if that doesn't make much sense)?

No, it does make sense. I need to repeat again that one is always acutely aware of mistakes on reflecting back on a novel once it is finished. Of all the characters in the book Rosie is the one I wish I could have described at twenty-one (and I think I probably have given her more "backstory" than any other character). I grew up with many Rosies, lovely girls who were fucked up by with-holding, punishing parents, who were equally fucked up by a sexist culture (and Perth's surf culture was certainly that when Rosie was young). Sex became a currency and the more sex became currency the more confused they were about it. She's also married to an alcoholic and she is also in a constant state of self-denial. She's terrified about becoming poor, really the only person in the book who has to deal with that anxiety. The biggest slap for me in the book is the one that Bilal delivers to her, "You're no good for my family, your people are no good."
I don't know what the situation is like in the UK (or I am no expert on it) but I think that there is an anxiety in Anglo-Celtic Australian communities about somehow missing the boat, somehow being excluded from contemporary multicultural society. That's the direction I was heading with her character. Maybe I needed to be tougher on her?
As for your reaction, it is interesting. Someone said the character you hate most is the one you are most like. I think it is probably too glib but I know as a reader when I feel that itch of anger and repulsion about what a character is doing I wonder if it is because they are too close to the bone.

ttalloo Wed 23-Mar-11 21:17:38

Mrs Kwazii, I know exactly what you mean. All the children I know of immigrant parents have succeeded, and done well for themselves - degrees, good jobs, nice homes - because our parents pushed us, but I know that I am not as strong as my parents were, because I had it so much easier than they did.

I hope I can instill the same value for education and hard work into my children, but I do worry, like you, about how easily that everything they want actually comes to them, because they have it even easier than I did.

And also, because my husband isn't from a different ethnic background to me that it is difficult to give them a sense of cultural identity. But then is it such a bad thing that they grow up to think of themselves as English? Probably this is a subject for another thread!

ifaistos Wed 23-Mar-11 21:27:32

Thanks for the interesting answer. I just re-read my question, it was badly worded. I didn't mean to suggest you don't understand your own character, I think I meant empathise with more.
And I also wanted to say I'm from a Greek immigrant background and that side of the book rang very true for me. I liked the book a lot, thanks again for taking the time to answer.

gailforce1 Wed 23-Mar-11 21:28:04

Christo your comment about the variety of literature you were exposed to making you curious about language is very interesting and I think that our current way of teaching English in our schools does not encourage this. I wonder if MrsKwazii's point about youngsters need for instant gratification allows them to be truly curious?

TillyBookClub Wed 23-Mar-11 21:28:14

We should probably let Christos get back to his breakfast (or lunch? I still haven't got a grip on the time thing) - Christos, thank you so much for being such a wonderful webchat guest, you have been so diligent in getting back to everyone and your answers have been fascinating and much appreciated.

Very much looking forward to reading your next novel, and many congratulations again on this one.


ChristosTsiolkas Wed 23-Mar-11 21:28:28


Hello Christos.

I finished your novel last night and, whilst it did not give me a warm fuzzy glow inside, and made me somewhat uncomfortable, I very much enjoyed it.

I haven't read back fully over the Talk history but I see there is some discussion about how 'The Slap' is about society and how a new middle class is emerging. Interesting, as for me the book is very much about about parenting - it is as a result of 'failed parenting' that the slap results, after all.

I appreciate the novel is a work of fiction, but it really doesn't fit in with any version of reality I know of. Are you a parent out of interest? Despite taking drugs in my own youth, I find the attitude of some of the adults in the book (?Aunt Tasha, Richie's mum?) towards drug taking implausible, and I can't imagine writing this myself now that I am a parent.

No, mate, I am not a parent, but an uncle many times over. I have also worked in schools with young people. I think Tasha in the novel is similar to me. I think it is important to have adults in your young life who are not parents, who you can talk openly with. We can't be "mates", but sometimes it is easier to speak to another adult - be it aunt, teacher, etc - than a parent, sometimes it is a way of creating abridge between yourself and your parent.

Drugs? I think drugs are prevalent and I think that we do lie about them. Also, I have noticed, that there are changes once children become older, become teenagers. Society isn't static, things change and maybe a next generation won't be as liberal as mine are when it comes to drugs. I hope they are not as hypocritical. Personally, I respect Richie's mother's attitude; I think it realistic but also loving. Remember she doesn't know he shot up, I thing Tracey would have reacted differently then.

I debated for ages about whether to have them shooting up, I knew it would be contentious. But it reflected something of my own experience at that age and I guess I wanted even at that point the reader to have to wonder, well, what is the future for these young people?
It is an important question, isn't it? Fundamental. What is the kind of future we are making? I question the sense of entitlement my generation has. We can't have everything, it just isn't sustainable.

ChristosTsiolkas Wed 23-Mar-11 21:31:33


We should probably let Christos get back to his breakfast (or lunch? I still haven't got a grip on the time thing) - Christos, thank you so much for being such a wonderful webchat guest, you have been so diligent in getting back to everyone and your answers have been fascinating and much appreciated.

Very much looking forward to reading your next novel, and many congratulations again on this one.


It is breakfast. I have to say that I have enjoyed this very much. There is something wonderful about the opportunity to have a conversation with readers. My favourite part of being at a panel is the question and answer period, especially when it feels like a real dialogue is beginning. This experience feels like that.

So thank you very much. I am off to have my cereal while I imagine you all are heading off to bed.

Muchas muchas gracias.

MrsKwazii Wed 23-Mar-11 21:34:37

ttalloo, yes would be an interesting thread grin

Thank you Christos and thank you very much Tilly for organising another great book and chat. Looking forward to the next one smile

gailforce1 Wed 23-Mar-11 21:54:26

Thank you Christos - I think that this has been one of the best discussions.

Tilly any news on next month's book as I struggle to get a copy from the library and finish it in time for the chat?
Thank you.

ChristosTsiolkas Wed 23-Mar-11 21:58:58


ttalloo, yes would be an interesting thread grin

Thank you Christos and thank you very much Tilly for organising another great book and chat. Looking forward to the next one smile

I hope this is oaky, I just couldn't resist butting in here (I am dripping milk on my keyboard as I type).
I think it would be a great discussion. When I was an adolescent and a young man I had a romance about Europe, about Greece, that I would go there and find a sense of belonging I didn't feel in Australia. But every journey to Europe has confirmed that though I have a Greek heritage I am not European. I am Australian, that is what I am.
I can deplore so much about my country, I have been public about my detesting the parochialism here, the turns towards xenophobia and racism, but at the same time I do find it incredible that within only one generation I can comfortably call myself Australian and I am perceived as such. I don't think it is the case everywhere in the world. A few years ago I was sitting on the balcony of a cousin's apartment in Athens, their neighbours had joined us, a couple who had come emigrated from Poland. Their son was playing with my cousin's son and they were all shocked when I referred to both the boys as Greek. "But he's Polish", they all said in unison. "But I thought he was born here", I replied.
"He was".
"That makes him Greek", I said.
They wouldn't accept it. His Polish surname, his Catholicism made him "not Greek".
I can't understand that way of thinking and I think this "not understanding" is part of what makes me Australian not European (or "new world" not "old world").
Just thinking about ttalloo's question makes me glad I was a young child during a confident period in Australian culture, an awakening in the arts and culture after a long period of conservative timidity. I think there was a confident politics and therefor a confident espousal of multiculturalism, where it was not seen as threatening. When a culture is anxious, multiculturalism is seen as a threat.
Ttalloo, I think your children are definitely English but their heritage is also what it is. I also realised I didn't answer your question about my Greek language skills. I have the vocabulary of a twelve year old, I wish I could read it. I wish it were better especially because I'd love to read so many Greek language books in the original. I love Kostas Tsaktsis, Kazantzakis, Cavafy, Ritsos and I am sure there would be so many discoveries to be made if I knew the language better.

Again, sorry for banging on - I just thought they were really interesting questions that you and MrsKwazii posed. I think it will be a great discussion.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 23-Mar-11 22:55:01


Thank you Christos - I think that this has been one of the best discussions.

Tilly any news on next month's book as I struggle to get a copy from the library and finish it in time for the chat?
Thank you.

gailforce, this is next month's book. More details about the book tomorrow morning.

Are you signed up to our book club newsletter <shameless plug>? It usually has the next few months' books, so you know what's coming up.

sakura Thu 24-Mar-11 05:07:20

THe book sounds absolutely fascinating. I've just ordered it from Amazon smile

transferbalance Thu 24-Mar-11 08:16:09

ok, I started this book but didn't finish it

think I will give it another go after reading this thread

Oscalito Thu 24-Mar-11 09:10:34

Would love to add a recommendation to this thread - Christo's earlier book Dead Europe.... very different from The Slap, but takes up a lot of what he has said about European cities, growing up Australian etc, with a bit of horror thrown in.

bringmesunshine2009 Thu 14-Apr-11 16:38:55

I wasn't expectating to hate this so much, but it was dire, I kept hoping it would get better, but no, it really was just awful. As expressed by others, misogynistic, racist, crass and pointless.

Swedes2 Thu 02-Jun-11 00:06:39

I've just finished reading The Slap and I really enjoyed it. I loved the way I kept changing my mind about characters as I learnt more about them.

I have a question about something that didn't feel at right (I know the author is long gone but maybe someone else might know): Why did Connie claim to have been raped by Hector?

CalatalieSisters Thu 27-Oct-11 23:40:12

Swedes, as well as just needing that false accusation as a device to drive the plot to its culmination, I wonder whether her lie wasn't just another instance in the book of what happens in it time and again: the overlaying onto frighteningly incoate, difficult human situations of a simplifying fiction of "victims and perpetrators." Remember Anouk's despair at the moral blandness and oversimplicity of the soap plotlines that she is forced to churn out? Those are all about setting up one-dimensional tales of wrongdoes and their victims. And so are some of the responses to the slap itself. Connie reacts to a situation she finds overwhelmingly difficult to parse by mapping a simplistic story onto it.

It was utterly implausible that she should have told that lie; and I felt really angry about it. But on the other hand, it is part of the author's sincere attempt to think about the ways in which we sometimes, like Hugo's mother, react to fearsomely complex internal and external conflicts by adopting sanctimonious fictions. I think the author feels that Australia's public morality, as exemplified in its soap operas, is a frightened reaction to the nuanced dissent about how to live that its different communities exibit?

I wish he hadn't used a false rape accusation for that purpose, though. It is too retrograde.

laylacher Wed 04-Jan-12 11:40:37

I am twenty-four years old and have no problem with the use of the word cunt in certain circumstances but i does christian realise that other words for ladyparts exist? The bad language in this book felt slightly gratuitous and annoying, and another thing which really gets my goat is the bad editing, countless spelling mistakes and words the wrong way round, isn't somebody paid to read the damn thing and make sure that doesn't happen?

laylacher Wed 04-Jan-12 11:44:25

And what was with the use of Wog in every other sentance, i began to question my understanding of the word when rosie describes how many "wog christmases and wog easters" she had spent with manolis, what does that even mean?

Gigondas Wed 04-Jan-12 11:52:34

I think it's Australian slang for people of Greek/Italian background . I have a friend who uses that to talk about her own family style (she is second generation Italian).

Michiem Wed 04-Jan-12 22:11:46

I did enjoy this book an after watching the mini series on bbc3 (and reading the comments on IMDB) I think I understood it a bit more. I have recommended it to people (despite the negative comments). As someone from an ethnic community the debate about the acceptability of a non- parent slapping a child is a common discussion/debate as it was very acceptable in the past, but now with children's rights I am know I would be more like the Koula's divorced daughter - torn between tradition and modernity

BeeBawBabbity Thu 26-Jan-12 21:16:56

I really enjoyed The Slap, I love his style of writing. I don't mind the gritty realism of swearing/violence/drug taking. It's refreshing and honest. I'm reading Dead Europe now and enjoying it, too.

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