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The Dinner (original 2009; edition 2013)
by Herman Koch
The Dinner by Herman Koch (2009)
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In The Dinner, Herman Koch invites us to an excruciating dinner at an insufferable restaurant with four pretty repellent people discussing what they are going to do about a horrible crime that they are aware of.
There are some surprises along the way but, without giving away too much, Koch’s ending casts so much doubt on what went on before that you don’t know what to make of the book at all really. Personally, I found the ending bewildering and it ruined what little pleasure I found in the book.
Original, dark, unreliable narrator . . .yeah, definitely up my alley! Unfortunately, I kept thinking to myself, "wow, this could have been brilliant." Honestly, the premise of the plot was just really good . . .but I couldn't help but think of it in the hands of say, Stephen King. King would make the rather pedestrian protagonist both more likable and scarier. He would take this exact same plot and take you on an emotional roller coaster.
Koch, on the other hand, takes his brilliant plot idea and overlays it with a solid storytelling voice and actually some sharp wit that keeps you turning the pages. And that was good enough for four stars from me. But just barely. I was interested and entertained, but not impressed.
The story is about two brothers who meet up in a restaurant with their wives. It becomes clear that the relationship between the brothers is strained and slowly the causes of the strain are revealed. Some of the issues are narrated forthrightly and others need to be unearthed a bit by the reader as the story progresses.
Readers can get behind characters who do bad things . . .but it takes a lot of writerly skill to develop the empathy in the heart of the reader that is sustained throughout. This book actually reminds me a little bit of a book I started and have yet to return to called [b:The Slap|5396496|The Slap|Christos Tsiolkas|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330062364s/5396496.jpg|5464024] . . .which took on some similar issues on a smaller scale and with a less deft hand.
So I am glad I read this one, and I enjoyed the time I spent with it, but I don't think I'll be telling my friends to pick it up.
Rather than the pretentious dinner described in The Dinner, I thought it was like eating bags of potato chips and being unable to stop. You don’t like the chips, but feel compelled to eat more.
What an unpleasant group. I don’t think you are meant to like anyone. The restaurant, the food, the manager are caricatures.
Good writing left me thinking. The kind of book where I’d think of re-reading to see what I had missed, but can’t imagine actually doing that.
I was hesitating between four and five stars for quite some time. It ended up being five because, despite its flaws, which I won't go into as they'd be spoilers, it has some truly brilliant aspects which I will not forget in a hurry, and it conveys some brave and important messages. Also it was totally unputdownable and kept me up far too late, always the sign of a good story!
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.
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.
“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.
Welsh is intrigued by a novel reminiscent of The Slap and Carnage
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Wikipedia in English (1)
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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)839.31Literature German literature and literatures of related languages Other Germanic literatures Netherlandish literatures Dutch
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
Two stars because at first the writing was compelling. ( )