Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

the-dinnerWhat’s it about?

A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened…

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My thoughts

I picked this for October book club read after discussing it with my brother who’d just started reading.  We usually have a chat about the books we’re reading when we see each other so I thought I’d read one that he was reading.

The book is split into the parts of a dinner i.e appetiser, aperitif etc but it takes a long time to get going. I felt that it had so much potential but there was just too much build up and back story into the parent’s marriages rather than what the kids did that it was too slow in provoking my emotions as a reader.  In fact, the majority of the story was about Paul; who starts out as such a likeable character but then by the end is completely detestable.  And his wife Claire, well she was a real piece of work…I’m sure we’d all like to think that we’d do the right thing and encourage our children to do the right thing but these characters, in particular Claire and Michel lacked any kind of legal or ethical morals or showed any kind of remorse.  Psycho or sociopathic…whichever fits!

The idea of parents protecting their children against all odds makes for an interesting and thought-provoking read but with a cast of such despicable, unethical characters this book just didn’t do it for me.

I also couldn’t understand why would you set your novel in such a strange setting given the seriousness of the conversation they were going to have where the other diners could potentially overhear their discussion?

Well it certainly made for an interesting book club discussion but not one I’d rush to recommend.  However, The Dinner will be released as a movie in 2017 starring Richard Gere, Steve Coogan and Laura Linney.  I’m sure I’ll go and see it just to see how it translates onto the big screen and see if any significant changes have been made – I note that they’ve already changed some of the characters names and I’m hoping that it’ll be that rare occasion where the movie is better than the book. I’m going off on a tangent here but am also looking forward to seeing The Light Between Oceans which is released here in the UK next week.  If book to movie adaptations interest you then check out this article.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author links: Website | Facebook


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