Reading guide for The Dinner by Herman Koch

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Dinner

by Herman Koch

The Dinner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 304 pages
    Oct 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How did your opinion of Paul and Serge shift throughout the novel? How might the story line have unfolded if it had been told from a mother's point of view?
  2. In what way do the courses of a meal—from aperitif to digestif—echo the experience of savoring a suspenseful novel? As the waiter described each delicacy in The Dinner, did the food appeal to you, or did you share Paul's belief that it was pretentious?
  3. What do you think of the sympathy Paul and Claire feel for their son? As a parent, how far would you go to defend your child?
  4. Do Michel and Rick represent the indifference of their generation, or are teenagers more socially conscious in the Information Age?
  5. How much influence do Claire and Babette have over their husbands? How do they define good mothering?
  6. The novel opens with Paul's commentary on how much Serge irritates him. What accounts for their attitude toward each other? Does Paul's animosity run deeper than typical sibling rivalry?
  7. Discuss Paul's and Serge's career paths. What does it take to succeed in politics compared with succeeding in the classroom? What skills do the Lohman brothers share?
  8. Ultimately, who is to blame for the homeless woman's death? What does the novel indicate about the responsibilities (or irresponsibility) of the upper class? What separates sympathetic souls from heartless ones?
  9. Discuss the portrait of a marriage that Paul paints as he recalls Claire's illness and confronts the possibility of losing his family. Why is Claire so protective of Paul? What keeps their relationship going?
  10. In chapter 30, we see the details of Paul's approach to history and humanity. As you watched him lose his teaching job, did you perceive him as someone who is ill or simply selfish? Or rational?
  11. What does the story of cousins Michel and Rick say about nature versus nurture? How do you think Beau/Faso sees his adoptive family? What have they taught him about getting ahead?
  12. How did you react to Claire and Michel's "solution"?
  13. What commentary does the novel offer about the author's homeland? What aspects of The Dinner would change if it were set in Washington, DC, rather than in the Netherlands?

Guide written by Amy Clements

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Hogarth Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.