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Barracuda

by Christos Tsiolkas

He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close.

His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he’s ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny’s win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he’s Barracuda, he’s the psycho, he’s everything they want to be but don’t have the guts to get there. He’s going to show them all.

He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.

Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?

A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda contains everything a person is: family and friendship and love and work, the identities we inhabit and discard, the means by which we fill the holes at our centre. It’s brutal, tender and blazingly brilliant; everything we have come to expect from this fearless vivisector of our lives and world.

 

“A truly fine novel… A great page-turner …Barracuda combines sharp social portraiture with that rare ingredient, a story that speaks to the human condition…So gripping …This is not only Tsiolkas’s best novel so far, it is the work of a writer at the top of his game.”   The Millions

“Tsiolkas perfectly captures the arrogance and agonies of youth… [Barracuda] burns with razor-raw insight…Engrossing.”  Booklist

“This disturbing yet satisfying story by Commonwealth Prize winner Tsiolkas (The Slap) examines themes of class consciousness, family conflict, loyalty, and friendship. The often harsh, sometimes brutal novel about the fine line between love and hate, pain and pleasure, is infused with language so beautiful that it takes one’s breath away.”  Library Journal

“[Barracuda] has all the early signs of a classic failure narrative along the lines of Exley’s A Fan’s Notes…Affecting.”  Publishers Weekly

“A bracing poolside critique of Antipodean mores…A tough, unsparing, closely observed and decidedly R-rated look at the many challenges and disappointments that life brings, told against settings that American readers will find at once familiar and exotic.”  Kirkus (starred review)

“Immensely moving…Tsiolkas writes with compelling clarity about the primal stuff that drives us all: the love and hate and fear of failure. He is also brilliant on the nuances of relationships….At times, the prose is near to poetry…There are shades of Faulkner in this brilliant, beautiful book. If it doesn’t make you cry, you can’t be fully alive.”  The Sunday Times

“Intense…strikingly physical…an almost mystical experience…Tsiolkas again shows a particular ability to create spiky psychological snapshots.”  Financial Times

“[Tsiolkas is] a master chronicler of the zeitgeist… There is no understatement; no silences nor lilting musicality. The words hurtle out as he depicts characters trapped between irreconcilable worlds – middle class and working class, Anglo and Greek, gay and straight, physical and intellectual. Individuals who are intense, complex and flawed but must ultimately cleave towards tenderness and discover generosity. If The Slap was excellent material for a TV series, then Barracuda’s more substantial plot has all the hallmarks of a feature film.”  The Guardian 
 
“Resonant, epic and supremely accomplished…subtle, textured, profoundly human and riveting… Tsiolkas is consistently and ferociously engaged with the unique (and surely principal) concern of the novelist: the inner lives of the people about whom he has chosen to write…This is the work of a superb writer who has completely mastered his craft but lost nothing of his fiery spirit or instinct in so doing. Barracuda is a big achievement. Not least because, for all its power and glory, for all its sound and fury, it everywhere manifests ‘the ruthless calm of the truth’.”  The Observer 

“Rhapsodic… Barracuda may tell an old, old story, but it has rarely been told in a better way.”  The Telegraph

“Brilliantly sharp…[Barracuda is] literature that engages with our world. It tries to figure out how society is put together and asks questions about how to live within it. In blunt, compelling prose reminiscent of early 20th-century American writers such as Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair, Tsiolkas explores the extremism of our mainstream and brings us to an awareness of the animal urges that trouble our civilised hearts. As such it’s vital.”  The Australian
 
“Tsiolkas is a masterly storyteller.”  Caroline Jowett, Daily Express

“[A] tough, insightful social critique.”  The Sydney Morning Herald, selected as a Best Summer Read
 
“Christos Tsiolkas’ Barracuda is a big, bold, riveting book, an absolute page-turner swollen with rage and shame but mesmerizing as it unfolds.”  Peter Craven, A Book of the Year Selection for The Australian


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About Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of five novels: Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-OnThe Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award. He won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal for his novel, The Slap, which was also announced as the 2009 Australian Booksellers Association and Australian Book Industry Awards Books of the Year. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne. Christos' latest novel is Barracuda, which was published here and in the UK to rave reviews in late 2013 and became an instant bestseller.

Other books by Christos Tsiolkas



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