Book Review: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda by Christos TsiolkasBarracuda: What it is about

From the publishers: “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.

Barracuda: What I thought

My reading experience with Barracuda was very mixed. I loved the beginning, about Danny, from a poor family, going to a private school where he’d be coached in swimming. He was the best swimmer of them all. Although they initially don’t want much to do with him, the other boys are impressed by his swimming capabilities and he becomes reluctant friends with some of them.

The story about young Danny is intermixed with that of an older Dan. It seems things didn’t work out in the end. After a while, the story became too negative and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I even put it aside, forgot that I was reading it, and read most of another book before I realized I was supposed to read Barracuda. I’m glad I did get back to it, because it did get better. When he gets to know his cousin, he finally finds a person he can relate to. I loved it how he connected with him.

The mix of past and present was sometimes confusing. The story in the past was written in the third person (Danny, he) while the rest was written in the first person (I), presumably to indicate how older -Dan didn’t relate to his younger version. That was made very clear in the story, so the change in point of view seemed a little redundant. Also, it didn’t help me while reading in deciding whether I was reading  the past or the present (I just forgot which was which until it became clear that Dan had distanced himself from Danny).

The story is about a boy, later a man, looking for recognition and belonging. Definitely well-written but a bit too bleak at places.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (okay to good)

Number of pages: 528

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from Blogging for Books (ebook)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction



About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Book Review: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

  1. I have this book on my TBR pile. I enjoyed your review and look forward to seeing how my opinions are the same / differ! I am hoping I really enjoy it…

  2. Carolyn O says:

    I just read this too! I actually liked the negativity; it was weirdly refreshing to read about rage and emotions behind it.

  3. Mystica says:

    I just downloaded this from Blogging for Books. I liked your review.

  4. I really liked this book. And I liked the way it was told, flipping back and forth in time. It is the first thing by Tsiolkas that I’ve read, but i will definitely read more.

  5. BookerTalk says:

    I won a signed copy of this a year ago but haven’t felt that motivated to read it yet. Your review has at least helped me see that it may be a bit of a frustrating read – at least when I do get to it eventually I’ll know what to expect.

  6. pieterlikeswriting says:

    I think you have a really good opinion about the book and how to you thought about it, I think you did a great job by putting the main parts of the book in your blog and tell about them. I thought that the negative part was really good, because it let people see how Danny really is and that he can be revered with a real person.

    I think you have great writing style and I definitely would like to see more of your reviews. I think you did a great job so I hope you are going further with this style of writing.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks, Pieter. You can subscribe to the blog and get a post every time I write one. Blogs are a fun way to learn about new and old books. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Niels says:

    I really liked your review. I think I’m going to read this book because you were so enthusiastic about this book. The book itself sounds very emotional because of all the things that happen to Danny, that he is bullied at school.
    The thing I liked about Danny is that he is so motivated to win a gold medal that you actually want to know about his story that he can achieve his goal. I also like that he is better in swimming than his bullies and that his trainer knows that and believes in him. I can see myself in the book because I also want to achieve my goals and I like swimming. I only think that you can be more specific with writing about that happens in the book.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Hi Niels, thanks for your comment. I would not recommend the book if you’re not at least in the 5th or 6th year at school. It’s not an easy read. But I hope you will try it sometime!

  8. bas says:

    I really liked your review, because everything you explain in the review is clear.
    The first part of the review is summed up well. It was very clear for me what the book was about. Im very happy you said the book was getting better in the end, because it seemed to be a little bit boring. The book looks interesting to me, because he got bullied, but is better in swimming then his bullies are.
    The review is summed up well, my only advice for the writer is to be a bit more specific about what happens in the book, and not spoil the end.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Bas. No, I didn’t spoil the end for you. I’m very careful with my reviews because I don’t like it myself when I know too much about the story before reading a book myself. The story did get better towards the end but it was annoying it took so long! 🙂

  9. j.brandy says:

    i liked your review, i think it is well written and you give us a good idea about the book.
    I really liked that there was some kind of negativity that makes it more real and honest, because in my opinion there are always good and bad things about a book.
    but i think if a story gets a little negative you just should keep reading because it doesn’t have to be bad. There are a lot of books out there which are a little negative but have the best stories.
    reading a book is not always only about if you enjoy it, if it’s a good story about something negative it can be just as good or even better than a book that’s always light en positive.

  10. Dewi says:

    I think it’s great how you describe the growing he is going to. He obviously does something he loves.
    But I also believe it’s kind of disappointing that you’ve put the book away. And actually forgot you were reading the book. It’s a beautiful story about a boy who follows his dreams and actually achieves them. I have read books I didn’t like as much as I wanted to, but I always kept on reading. But after all I’m glad you went back to the book again.
    I feel like you’re a little bit to negative about it. I personally like it when the timeline of the story changes from history to present.
    I appreciate you honesty, and it must be hard to deal with negative comments.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Hi Dewi, thanks for your comment. I get a lot of (free!) book to review and sometimes, if they don’t interest me so much, I move to a different book. In this case, I thought it was worth reading all of it, so I did. The end was fine, I’m glad I read all of it.

  11. I must admit I’ve been put off Christos Tsolkios by the TV series made of The Slap, which I found immensely irritating. Should I give him a chance?

  12. I’m glad I read your review. It’s stil high on my must-read-list, but it’s good to see what other bloggers think.

  13. Mitchell says:

    I liked your review of this fascinating sounding book. I’m glad you mentioned the changes in past and present, that is handy to know so the mystery will be solved when you’re reading it and don’t know why the story is suddenly 10 years in the future (for example). Although i’m not really the swimmer, only in the summer, the story sounds brilliant to me. It shows that you don’t have to be born with a big wallet to become successful, and that hard work and talent overcome the ”power” of money. Everyone wants to be acknowledged but not everyone puts their back in it and it seems to me that this book teaches you that you should always give 100%.

    Your review explained a lot about the book without spoiling too much and is easy to read, so i like it!

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