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The Dinner

by Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman Koch X
The Dinner by Herman Koch
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2013, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

compelling, thought-provoking novel
The Dinner is the sixth novel by Dutch actor, television and radio producer, newspaper columnist and author, Herman Koch, and the first book to be translated into English. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner at an expensive restaurant to discuss the management of the recent, shocking activities of their teenaged sons. Serge Lohman is the charismatic leader of an opposition party poised to take power at the next election, a few months away, making him a strong candidate for the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. His younger brother, Paul, has little respect for his brother’s position and posturing, instead being focussed on the happiness of his own small family. The events of the evening are narrated by Paul and are interspersed with flashbacks to incidents that occurred months or years previously. Koch is a master craftsman when it comes to building his main character: Paul starts out as a reasonable, upstanding citizen, although his antagonism towards his brother is immediately apparent. As the story progresses, a different person begins to be revealed by glimpses, at first fleeting but gradually more sustained, and the reader starts to wonder about Paul’s reliability as a narrator. In fact, none of the characters is quite what they first appear to be. Koch uses his novel to comment on Dutch tourists, pretentious restaurants, politics, marriage, parental control and adolescent right to privacy, youth violence and the internet, eugenics, and the instinct to protect one’s young. Koch manages to include blackmail, a hereditary disorder, You Tube clips, quite a bit of violence, some hilarious descriptions of restaurant practices, a plot twist that will leave readers gasping and a chilling climax. This compelling, thought-provoking novel is flawlessly translated by Sam Garrett.
Power Reviewer
Diane S.

The Dinner
First book that I have rated so highly even though I did not like any of the characters. This is a book of moral complexity narrated by an unreliable narrator, who at first seems to take the politeness and political correctness out of all conversations at dinner. He does this basically inside himself, not outside where any can hear but he is extremely skeptical of almost everything. From the beginning the reader knows this is not going to be a lighthearted dinner between siblings, the tension is felt almost immediately, but it is very hard to guess where exactly this will lead. So despite the fact that I did not like any of these people I still wanted to keep reading to find out what was going on. Psychological suspense for sure and I now know what Maureen's whoa meant. ARC from publisher.
Power Reviewer
Sandi W.

A cold, horrendous act of violence
3.75 stars

Man, what a crappy family. Each person in this group of people has a problem, and one that supersedes the problem that they are all drawn together to solve. There is not one character in this whole novel that is likable. Some of their actions are very understandable, given the circumstances, however they were probably not the correct actions.

The whole premise surrounds a cold, horrendous act of violence that was carried out by 3 teenage boys, the sons of the adults drawn together for this dinner. During the gathering each of the 4 adults thought-process, motives, and insecurities come to light. Decisions are made. Lives are changed.

There were places in this book that I feel could easily have been eliminated. Paul, the story-teller, I felt went way too deep into his own background and his profession. Totally unneeded for the plot of this story. It quickly became boring. But once through all the nonsense, the basis of the book was very good. I don't agree with how the adults handled the situation, but I can understand it.

This book was translated from Danish and won multiple awards. Worth the read.
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