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The Dinner

by Herman Koch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2123341,938 (3.42)319
Two couples meet for dinner at a fashionable restaurant in Amsterdam. Behind their polite conversation, 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 show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.… (more)
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» See also 319 mentions

English (278)  Dutch (37)  Spanish (5)  Italian (4)  French (3)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (333)
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
Wow. Those are some seriously unlikable characters. I couldn't get through this book. I hope someone tells me how it ends. ( )
  gakgakg | May 28, 2020 |
The Dinner is told in the first person from the point of view of Paul Lohman, father of Michel and husband to Claire. Paul's brother, Serge Lohman, is a politician. He is leader of the opposition and assured of becoming Prime Minister at the next election. He has a wife, Babette, a daughter Valerie, and a son Ricky. The couple have also adopted Beau, a boy from Burkina Faso. Paul suspected that Serge had far-sighted political motivations for adopting Beau, and seems disappointed that he hasn't yet been proved right.

Serge has insisted that Paul and Claire meet him and Babette for a meal in what Paul considers a pretentious restaurant. Serge says they need to discuss their children.

Paul avoids the subject for as long as he can, while filling us in on various events that shaped my view of the protagonists, including a shocking incident that their sons were involved in recently, and which, it transpires, is the reason for this dinner.

Any expectation that they will handle the matter as a family is brushed aside. Serge has already alerted his office that he will be making an announcement the next day. The dinner is just an opportunity to tell his brother how he, Serge, is going to deal with the matter. The other dinner guests disagree with Serge's plan, but can he be dissuaded from his intended course of action?

From the outset, I took against Serge, and thought Babette weak and manipulated, although most of my reasoning was drawn from Paul's observations of his brother. I thought I could sympathise with Claire and possibly Paul, but as time wore on, I realised that I didn't find any of the characters likeable, including the waiting staff in the restaurant. Regardless, the story was compelling. I could feel there was something much darker going on beneath the surface.

The story unfolds over the five course meal. It seemed slow to get going, but there is something darkly enticing about the writing that had me hooked from the beginning. My imagination suggested various plot lines as I sifted through the clues trying to discover where the story was headed. However, each time I thought I knew what was going on, I found I'd been wrong-footed. The ending left me open-mouthed, and answers the question posed in the blurb, "How far would you go to protect the ones you love?" ( )
  Deborah_J_Miles | May 22, 2020 |
An unsettling yet riveting read - reminiscent of the equally disturbing film "Benny's Video".

( )
  gumnut25 | Apr 21, 2020 |
Takes place during a dinner in a restaurant shifting back and forth in time. Explores the length people will go to protect their children. It also explores the nature versus nurture theme. These are framed in a nice, tense, thriller of a novel where you think you know who a character is but soon realize you don't. I really liked this novel ( )
  Smits | Apr 9, 2020 |
Yes the characters are unlikable but how else can one explore the very nature of evil without unlikable characters? I loved this book, which, in my opinion, would be best described as a psychological thriller. From the get go there is an insidious undercurrent of unease, of something gone awry. The build up of tension between the diners (two couples related by the husbands, who are brothers) is fantastic. The reveal is surprising and gratifying, insofar as it was terrible enough that I understood that there would be tension building (nothing worse than a unsatisyfing reveal!). I really enjoyed the exploration of the link between father and son and the potentially heritable nature of violence and the implications that that has for society. A riveting book with deliciously self-centered and unfeeling characters who will stop at nothing to protect their own interests. ( )
  prof_em | Jan 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
If you want to enjoy Herman Koch’s new novel, don’t read a single thing about it. To do so seriously reduces its power. Don’t read the blurbs on its dust jacket — an impressive list of authors that includes Gillian Flynn and S.J. Watson — nor the synopsis on the inside flap. Don’t even read this review. Actually, forget that — come back! It’s spoiler-free, I promise. . . . The Dinner is the kind of book I wish could be translated into English more often.
added by Nickelini | editNational Post, JC Sutcliffe (Feb 15, 2013)
 
The Dinner, a suspense novel by Herman Koch, has sold over a million copies since it was published in Europe in 2009, and it's not difficult to understand the appeal. It's fast-paced and riveting. Written in cool, detached prose (deftly translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett), The Dinner is as theatrical and dramatic as a well-crafted play. It's also nasty. It starts off as social satire but shifts gears, and you find yourself in the middle of a horror story. . . . Mr. Koch delivers his revelations cleverly, by the spoonful. Issues of morality, responsibility and punishment are raised along the way, and a Pinteresque menace lurks under the surface. When savagery takes over, the reader is shocked. But some of Mr. Koch's conclusions are a bit too pat. In the end, the book sits on the digestion less like an over-indulgent "fine dining" experience than Chinese food, which, as we all know, leaves you feeling hungry a couple of hours later.
 
“The Dinner,” Herman Koch’s internationally popular novel, is an extended stunt. Mr. Koch confines his story to one fraught restaurant meal, where malice, cruelty, craziness and a deeply European malaise are very much on the menu.
"The Dinner” has been wishfully compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” (and enthusiastically endorsed by Ms. Flynn) for its blackhearted deviltry. But her book, with its dueling narrators, had two vicious but sympathetic voices. Her sneaky spouses were delectable in their evil genius. The Lohmans are indigestible.
added by sneuper | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Feb 6, 2013)
 
“The Dinner,” Herman Koch’s internationally popular novel, is an extended stunt. Mr. Koch confines his story to one fraught restaurant meal, where malice, cruelty, craziness and a deeply European malaise are very much on the menu. The four diners can leave the table occasionally, headed to the restrooms or the garden or the handy room of flashback memories. But mostly they sit and seethe at one another as a miserable night unfolds.
This book has been widely described as both thriller and chiller, but it really is neither.
But it’s the morality of the story that’s really sickening.
added by sneuper | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Feb 6, 2013)
 
Welsh is intrigued by a novel reminiscent of The Slap and Carnage
added by Nickelini | editthe Guardian, Louise Welsh (Aug 17, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herman Kochprimary authorall editionscalculated
Garrett, SamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garrett, SamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
NICE GUY EDDIE
C'mon, throw in a buck.
MR. PINK
Uh-huh, I don't tip.
NICE GUY EDDIE
Whaddaya mean, you don't tip?
MR PINK
I don't believe in it.

Quentin Tarantino
Reservoir Dogs
Dedication
First words
We were going out to dinner.
Quotations
If I had to give a definition of happiness, it would be this: happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn't have to be validated.
A fixed appointment for the immediate future is the gates of hell; the actual evening is hell itself.
The stupid woman is the one who thinks she doesn't need any help.
It's like a pistol in a stage play; when someone waves a pistol during the first act, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will be shot with it before the curtain falls. That's the law of drama. The law that says no pistol must appear if no one's going to fire it.
Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.
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Haiku summary
Soap opera. Cast:
The Jukes family. (What's the
Dutch for 'OTT'?)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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