Tag: Christos Tsiolkas

Tom Houghton by Todd Alexander

Posted January 19, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Tom Houghton by Todd AlexanderTitle: Tom Houghton (Goodreads)
Author: Todd Alexander
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Pages: 295
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

As a child growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, Tom Houghton was an innocent boy with an obsession with classic cinema; an obsession that he inherited from his grandmother. His favourite actor was Katherine Hepburn. As a man who just turned 40 years old, Tom Houghton is a completely different person, bitter and jaded with the world. Tom Houghton is an exciting new coming of age story from Todd Alexander.

Told from the two different stages of life (twelve and forty) Tom Houghton offers an interesting look into this character’s life. I suspect that the book is semi-autobiographical but I found this a well-developed characterisation. I was particularly interested to see just how much Tom has changed over the years. In fact, this often felt like two different people.

As this novel progresses, events start to hint at what makes Tom the person he is today. I am always fascinated by the way the world shapes people. Particularly if society turns people evil (ever since reading Frankenstein), or in this case, making people jaded. There is so much that could be pulled out if I had a psychology background but as a novice, I just enjoyed the direction this novel took.

I was sent this book by the publisher with a note saying that they thought I would enjoy it. I am glad I listened and picked this book up because it was right up my alley. Tom Houghton reminds me a bit of the writing of Christos Tsiolkas, albeit a much tamer novel. I do hope that Todd Alexander writers more novels like this, I will be eager to pick up another.

Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted December 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 8 Comments

Merciless Gods by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Merciless Gods (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2014
Pages: 304
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

As most people know, I am a big fan of transgressive fiction and in Australia there is one author that doesn’t shy away from a touch or taboo subject. This author is Christos Tsiolkas and he is best known for his two recent novels The Slap and Barracuda. Merciless Gods is his first collection of short stories and deals mainly with sexuality, family and identity.

Author of six novels, Christos Tsiolkas was born in 1965 to Greek immigrant parents. Reading through his novels you quickly get the sense of what it must have been like growing up in suburbia as a Greek immigrant and a homosexual. He likes to explore these themes constantly and you get an idea of just how backwards people’s thinking can be. Then with his breakout novel The Slap, he challenged everyone’s thoughts, tapping into the universal dilemma around discipline and child-rearing.

Merciless Gods seems to be more of a “return to his roots” collection of short stories, which shares similarities with first novel Loaded at any of his other. There is this whole theme about social and personal struggle that play out within these stories. I am impressed with the way Tsiolkas challenges people’s views; particularly when it comes to sexuality and immigrants. There was a particular story that he wrote in Greek and then translated into English that was very powerful.

Christos Tsiolkas has officially become an ‘auto-buy’ author for me now and I will have to read the rest of his backlist sometime soon. Merciless Gods is hard-hitting and not for the faint of heart, he is pushing the boundaries but he does this really well. I am not sure when these stories were originally written, I think that will be interesting to know. However if you have never read this great Australian author, this is probably not the best place to start. Maybe begin with The Slap or Barracuda before working your way up to Loaded and Merciless Gods.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted November 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 10 Comments

Barracuda by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Barracuda (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2013
Pages: 528
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Danny Kelly’s dream is to win Olympic gold, and he even transferred to a prestigious private school to help realise this goal. But at this school he was an outsider and was shunned by the rich boys that attend. His coach believes in him, but the rest of the swim team doesn’t and this could start affecting his confidence. Danny’s win at all costs ferocity drives him and his psychotic approach earns him respect as well as the nickname Barracuda.

Christos Tsiolkas is best known for his highly controversial, but brilliant novel The Slap. Going into this book I worried that this wasn’t going to live up to my expectations of the author but I was surprised. My prediction for a clichéd ‘overcome all odds to achieve greatness’ type novel may be right but it is also very wrong. That is the basic plot but I forgot to take into account of Tsiolkas’s ability to incredibly layer stories.

Barracuda started off tame, full of angst but tame compared to The Slap but soon I was in unfamiliar territory. Unflinching, controversial and not afraid to tread into the dark side; the kind of book that is uncomfortable to read but enjoyable to finish.  The thing I love about Christos Tsiolkas, apart from the dark and brutal approach, is the profound and thought provoking story telling. He is the master of his craft.

This novel like The Slap is a great look at modern Australian life, but this one isn’t looking at parenting but instead the teenage years. Barracuda’s main focus is not about winning or chasing your dreams but for me it is all about alienation. When I was a teenager I was uprooted from all my friends in Sydney and moved to a small country town in north Queensland, where I had no friends and this novel made me relive that feeling of alienation (which I’ve never forgiven my parents for).

Tsiolkas doesn’t stop there, he likes to add layers upon layers and you spend a lot of time after reading this book just thinking about it. This for me is a sign of a great novel and I love how he dealt with alienation so effectively and then managed to look at struggles with sexual identity as well. I feel like Christos Tsiolkas is not afraid to put more and more problems for one character to deal with and it feels so real, the angst of an Australian teenager growing up in the 90’s was done to perfection.

I will admit while I loved this book, it was uncomfortable and sometimes poking at old wounds but the novel was almost a masterpiece. I did feel like it was a little long and dragged on a little at times but overall I was very pleased. Christos Tsiolkas is fast becoming my favourite Australian author and I really want to  read some of his other books; maybe not The Jesus Man but Loaded sounds really good.