The Dinner by Herman Koch
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Herman Koch
Format: Hardcover, 298 pages
Pub Date: February 12, 2013
Summary from publisher:
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. 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 the 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. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.
Book review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:
The Dinner by Herman Koch begins deceptively reasonable in its act of “normalcy” by its introduction of one of the book’s characters, Serge Lohman, a cabinet minister running in an election, his wife Babette, and its talk of what many families and couples enjoy — a night out to dinner.
The first-person narrative shared by the main character of the book, Paul, is easily readable, intelligent, and brutally honest that readers can enjoy being pulled into the fabric of the story with ease and interest.
But as the story continues, the “horrific act” committed by both of the couples’ sons is revealed, and not only triggers a city-wide police investigation, but leaves the readers with the shocking anger of its injustice.
While not discounting the severity of the crime itself because juvenile delinquency exists in the everyday of community, the book does delve deeper in revealing an even more shocking immorality — the response and reaction of the boys’ parents.
And from there the book spirals into a gripping narrative of subversive violence.
While Serge Lohman is accused of a pompous, egocentric attitude; his wife, Babette, portrayed as a weeping socialite; Claire, an intelligent and doting mother; and Paul, a complacent father with deep-rooted insecurity issues — readers will be shocked to learn the true culprits and puppeteers of violence and immorality in the book.
I, myself, had to put the book down several times to take in a breath from my anger and disbelief. And yet, I was compelled to return to it in order to complete the book and discover its outcome.
The tension in the book coupled with its shock value as well as the fact that it’s so well-written and easily readable makes this novel a tough story to put down.
It will certainly make readers question just how far one would and should go in protecting those they love—and how far back the source goes in perpetuating acts of violence, as well as who is truly to blame.
The novel is an enjoyable read as it is a frightening, disturbing one; one that readers will abhor in its immoral compass and delight in, in its provocative and succinctly dark grip.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure (and the disgust) of reading the novel, The Dinner, by Herman Koch, it’s one you’ll want to add to—and devour from—your reading menu.
Characters: 4 stars
Pacing: 4 stars
Cover Design: 4 stars
Plot: 4 stars
A special thanks to Hogarth for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unpaid review.
About the author:
Herman Koch is the author of seven novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in 25 countries, translated in 21 languages including English, and has sold over one million copies throughout Europe. It is also the winner of the Publieksprijs Prize in 2009. Koch is a Dutch writer and comedy actor who currently lives in Amsterdam.
(From back jacket and Wikipedia.)
When and how do you think one’s moral compass can become so de-sensitized that it actually disappears?
In what ways can we ensure that violence and the acceptance of violence is not tolerated in the home and/or the community?
When is it “right” to take the law into your own hands?
Have you read the book, The Dinner, by Herman Koch yet? If so, what did you think of it? Which character do you think was the worst, morally speaking?