The Dinner- a review



The Dinner

by Herman Koch

published by Hogarth


A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen year old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrates, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. (from Goodreads)

My Review

This is a book that (it seems) you either love or you hate.  I can not say either.

The story starts simple enough- a two brother meeting for dinner with their wives.  One brother is important and the other resentful.  No one seems to be having a good time depute the obsequious efforts of the wait staff and the manager in particular.  I started out liking the one brother-Paul-and his wife, until you realize he is an unreliable narrator.  Halfway through the book, I felt like I was watching a train wreck in slow motion- the kind where you cannot look away.  By the end, I honestly felt a bit ill.  I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who has not read it, but just want to say that I don’t have to like the characters, but when i feel like I loathe all of them, it is hard for me to enjoy a book.  This was well written and has gotten many great reviews.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?

My rating

3 out of 5- well written and satirical, but that is all i can give it.

8 thoughts on “The Dinner- a review

  1. I loved this book. You’re right–none of the characters end up being very likable…at all…but I like that they aren’t presented as all goody-goody or all evil. They’re presented as realistic people who can be funny and kind-hearted, while also having some really horrible flaws.

    The dinner scenes themselves made me guffaw. I was so on Paul’s side about the pretentiousness of the restaurant and the food, and his comments about them were hilarious.

    As for the big reveal and what they’ve met in the restaurant to talk about–as well as the decision that’s made at the end–this would make a great book club book. This book demands discussion.

    • (Oh, and I didn’t find Paul and his wife loathsome from the very beginning. Only after we find out why they’re meeting did I truly begin to become disappointed in them. Paul’s brother irritated me from the start.)

  2. Interesting. This book has been on so many “best of 2013” lists, but I haven’t really felt drawn to it, based on the reviews I’ve read. Your review makes me want to know the big reveal — but probably not enough to actually spend that much time with loathsome characters. Thanks for a thoughtful review!

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