Hit a kid, cause a stir

They’ve thrown some shrimp on the barbie and put out the salads and hummus and pita. A group of Australian suburbanites are enjoying a backyard gathering, when a man slaps an unruly child. But he’s not the kid’s father, and the ensuing events expose the cultural, economic and social fault lines that divide the members of this outwardly seeming tranquil neighborhood. The Slap is told in sections from the point of view of eight of the people involved, and covers the party and the slap as well as the fallout—a court case, strained friendships and marriages, re-examined beliefs. In addition to close scrutiny of the way that multiculturalism has altered the traditional Aussie worldview, Christos Tsiolkas also takes a few whacks at bad parenting, male infidelity and midlife dissatisfaction. These are not necessarily nice people, but the story is engrossing and could happen in any upscale backyard in the West.