Have you read The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas?
It was published in 2008 and is still on the SMH's Top 10 (Independent booksellers) list, has picked up the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Overall Best Book, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award and was the ABIA's Book of the Year.
I read it based on its success both commercially and critically, and because I thought it may have some contextual similarities to my own unfolding story. But I was disappointed.
Publisher Allen and Unwin's blurb reads: At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event...The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.
I wanted it to be a fantastic read. I wanted to be inspired by its contemporary portrayal of Australian middle class life, multiculturalism and our collective moral compass.
But I wasn't.
While I found the first half fairly engaging and the dialogue well written, I laboured, rather than raced through the second half.
I didn't particularly like, nor empathise with any of the characters. They came across as weary, unimaginative, generally apathetic and some of them were plain painful.
The titular 'slap' wasn't enough of an event to hold the plot as it meandered and backtracked and veered off on tangents for no other reason than to make sure each of the eight central characters had time to voice their perspective.
I was glad these people weren't my circle of friends.
The Slap is nothing like my story. So even though I wouldn't recommend it, I'm very glad I read it because I'm now more certain than ever of what I want my story to be.
Listening to Tracy Chevalier (Girl With a Pearl Earring, Remarkable Creatures) speak last year in Sydney, she imparted some valid advice.
'Write the kind of story that you want to read, but can't find out there in the bookstores.'
Far from the gloom and resignation of The Slap, I want to read something about us, as Australians, that is hopeful and optimistic. And that's what I'm writing.
What did you think of The Slap?