Books of the year 2010 | Rachel Cooke

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas


I can't join the echoing howls of outrage when it comes to The Slap (Tuskar Rock, £12.99) by Christos Tsiolkas, an everyday tale of nasty, middle-class Melbourne folk and their brattish children. Whether people like it or not, it speaks to our times, which is why we debated it so much, and for so long. I couldn't put it down, even though it occasionally sickened me. Still, whatever its virtues, it isn't a work of art. For one of those, try David Grossman's To the End of the Land (Jonathan Cape, £18.99). An Israeli mother absents herself from home in the hope that this will save her conscripted son from coming to any harm. Just thinking about it still makes me cry, several months later.

In non-fiction, I am mad for Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagi nation from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (Thames & Hudson, £19.95) by Alexandra Harris, who thinks it unfair that England has always had such a bad press from the disciples of modernism. Harris sees artistic life in the 1930s and 1940s as a kind of cultural renaissance. If, as I do, you like Eric Ravilious and Graham Sutherland, E M Forster and the Sitwells, this is the book for you. It is also full of gorgeous illustrations.

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This article first appeared in the 22 November 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Advantage Cameron