Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: 2014 by Hogarth, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC (US version reviewed). Originally published in 2013 in Australia by Allen & Unwin
Read: November - December 2014
Why it made it to the top of the pile: Despite the critical praise for The Slap, I didn't love it, and wanted to give the author & I a second chance
Categories: Fiction, Australian authors, contemporary
Full Disclosure: Advance reading copy courtesy the publisher and Blogging for Books
Trivia Tidbit: Tsiolkas edited the student newspaper, Farrago, while a student at the University of Melbourne in 1988
The pressure on elite sportspeople is intense, and this book delves into the pressure wannabe elite sportspeople put in themselves to excel. Tsiolkas' descriptions of Daniel's feeling of 'flying' through the water are poetic, and convey the beauty of a fit, healthy person performing to their best, when all aspects of training, mental toughness and competition conditions align for the perfect race. But not all races are perfect, and the description of the unravelling of a young man when dreams are shattered is raw and realistic.
As with other Tsiolkas works, Barracuda comments on Australian life - the divisions between rich and poor, have and have-not, the perception of Australia as the lucky country and the national identity crisis. One of the characters makes the following, cutting observation about the Australian psyche:
'You all think you;re so egalitarian, but you're the most status-seeking people I've met. You call yourself laid-back but you're angry and resentful all the time. You say there is no class system here, but you're terrified of the poor, and you say you're anti-authoritarian but all there is here are rules."