God I was glad to be done with it and away from those characters. By the end of the book, I despised the lot of them and the sad, sly, dysfunctional, cruel and treacherous world they live in.
This book has been hailed as a definitive exploration of the modern, multi-cultural world in which I apparently now live in. Middle-class, suburban Australia.
The premise of this book is excellent and wondering what happens is why I kept the page turning even though so many things about it made me cringe (though not the writing - never the writing. This author is superb).
At a BBQ one weekend afternoon, where family and friends converge at Hector and Aisha's home in a leafy Melbourne suburb, a 3 year old child is slapped by somebody who is not his parents. The repercussions that follow are powerful and the ripple effect is alive and well, let me tell you. It may seem like a basic premise - nobody should slap a child and the person who did it was in the wrong - but there are so many shades of grey and jumping over deep-down cultural and traditional beliefs and our assumptions and ideologies about rights and power and abuse, it's a hurdle.
The one theme that kept popping out to me was entitlement. My generation has such different ideas about entitlement than my parent's or my grandparents believed. Entitlement. Respect. Power. Rights. All the big themes are explored in this book and it's a fascinating read, it really is.
But so frikkin' uncomfortable.
The book is a compilation of many characters who were there at the fateful BBQ. And I have to be honest, every character bar one made me angry and disgusted and annoyed and bored. Do I know any of these sorts of people? People who are supposedly representative of current day Australia? I don't know them and I hope I never meet them! Perhaps I've been too sheltered but if that's the big grown up world out there I'm glad I spend so much time indoors. The characters are vain and sneaky and the language is pretty full-on. The sex scenes can feel grotesque (and there are a lot of sex scenes).
Basically - I am glad I don't hang around people who talk the way these characters (bar one - a sweet boy called Richie) do.
Which sounds trite and prudish and precious when talking about an extremely well written book by an author who just blows me away with his human insights and oh, he must be like a human sponge, soaking up everything he sees, hears, feels and assumes. What a great author - his story kept me reading even when I was repulsed by his characters and felt so angry that my middle-class Australia was being portrayed in such a crude way.
Read it and tell me what you think.
Oh and here's a transcript of an interview with the author, which is also interesting.
Another review here...