I initially didn't read it because I thought it was going to be yet another worthy indictment of the evils of child abuse, I got this impression from a radio interview at the time of its release. The problem of taking reviews too seriously. I decided to read the book because I enjoyed the TV series so much.
Of course, it is not about child abuse. And it is well balanced in terms of the way it presents views on appropriate child discipline and punishment.
Moreover, the slap is only the focal point that brings together what can be read as 8 brief novellas about 8 very different characters. The characters act as sort of representative types for a diverse Australia. This is a very clever structure and makes for a very readable novel.
The novel is, overall, about how people struggle to establish identities (and realities) for themselves in a world that is increasingly complex. It follows them as they fight for those realities in the face of the oppositional realities put forward by other characters.
Sadly, these struggles are almost always disappointing for the characters concerned and often involve compromises.
Also a little disappointing is that the characters sometimes seem like cut-outs, they don't quite make it to the level of great characters - people that could live outside the text (as Harold Bloom argued). Sometimes the scenes and dialogue are a little too obvious and cliched.
But for all that it is a very enjoyable novel with much of value to say about contemporary Australia.