An unruly toddler causes trouble at a barbeque in Australia. He goes to hit an older boy with a cricket bat, and gets the titular slap off the other kid's father. This sets off a massive barney; the police are called, it goes to court and friends and family draw up battle lines over the rights and wrongs of whacking this horrible child.
It's told in linear fashion, but each chapter is from the point of view of a different person who was at the party. And it's a wide spectrum - from the mother of the toddler to the man who hit him, but also from schoolkids and grandparents who've been drawn into the drama. You get to see things from changing perspectives and nothing's as cut and dried as it looks at first glance.
Except it is really. This kid's a nightmare. He's fawned over by his creepy mum (still getting breastfed at four), and he parrots slogans like "no-one can touch my body without my permission." It feels like the author's making it pretty obvious he thinks children like this could do with a good slap now and then.
But perhaps I'm wrong - one of the points the books makes is that there are three kinds of people in the world - men, women and mothers. Perhaps a mother reading this book will think it's always unacceptable for someone to slap your child, no matter their behaviour. They'd be wrong, of course.
The whole slap thing is really a way to look at issues of parenthood, love, desire, growing up, growing old, disappointment, money, class, race and roots. It's very skillfully done - the characters are believable and interesting, and the different storylines are well handled with some unexpected twists and red herrings. One of the characters writes for a soap opera, and this is what it reminded me of - a good soap.
This was a book on tape, and I'm now listening to Devil May Care the "official" Bond book by Sebastian Faulkes. I'll be finished that soon. But my reading's taken a bit of a battering this month. I've started four books and finished none. The title of 2666 I suspect refers to the number of pages you have to read before something happens. I've been enjoying Thunderstruck about Doctor Crippen and the invention of the wireless. Pretty interesting, but I don't know if I'll finish it. Also, PJ O'Rourke's latest. He's nowhere near as funny as he used to be. And a miscelleny of weird facts and opinions from ancient Romans. I'll certainly finish that one (it's short) and then I'll have to take stock. My bad old habits are returning.