My thoughts on Barracuda remain divided. Honestly, I didn’t love this novel, but I didn’t hate it either. Having said that, I definitely think you should read it. And if you haven’t already read Tsiolkas’ bestselling novel The Slap, I recommend you read that too.
Barracuda is a deceptively dark novel about Danny Kelly, a failed swimmer and deeply troubled schoolboy come man. It covers typical themes such as class, family, politics and education but in a confronting way that depicts the disappointing realities of life in modern Australia.
The events of Danny’s life are revealed through ugly memories and childhood flashbacks. You may hate his character as a boy, but you will absolutely despise him as an adult. That is, until the five-hundreth page when he finally acknowledges his selfish, hate-filled existence. Tsiolkas’ clever characterisation ensures you feel no sympathy, no connection and absolutely no admiration towards Danny until these last few pages (where you may shed an unexpected tear).
I truly admire Tsiolkas’ real, often vulgar writing. He bravely abandons cliché frills so often seen in modern fiction; his pages are littered with foul, offensive language. Tsiolkas’ words are provocative, and his unashamed discussion of sex and violence may leave you squirming. But that goes to show just how powerful Tsiolkas is as an author.
Barracuda won’t be the best book you’ve ever read – heck, it may be one of the worst. But do yourself a favour and stick to it because Christos Tsiolkas truly is a modern day literary genius in his ability to go against the grain and evoke our most undesired emotions.