TITLE: The Dinner
AUTHOR: Herman Koch
PUBLISHED: 1997 (The Netherlands); 2012 (English Translation)
Quote: “We were going out to dinner. I won’t say which restaurant, because next time it might be full of people who’ve come to see whether we’re there.”
Overview: Two brothers and their wives meet at an upscale restaurant for dinner one evening in Amsterdam. There is much to talk about, but one event ties them all together moreso than blood or marriage. It involves their two teenage sons. Cousins. And a death. Who knows what? What secrets are being kept between the couples and between the partners? How far will a parent go to protect their child? The book is split up by dinner course and fluctuates between the dinner meal and past events, culminating with multiple events that will leave the reader with their jaw on the floor.
Analysis: Okay, whoa. This one was a doozy. It was not what I was expecting, in a good way. Every single character in this book is perfectly unlikeable as their most common traits are selfishness, opportunism and the ability to rationalize a litany of poor choices. The Dinner was dark and twisted and only got darker and more twisted as the page numbers increased. I think one of the reasons the actions and thoughts of the characters in the book are hard to swallow is that they’re all fairly realistic actions and thoughts. Everything in this book could have happened. And it’s in those small reactions and actions, and millisecond thoughts portrayed by the characters, in which you witness the devil in all of us. This book can be read in a sitting or two, and should be if possible, in order to be properly digested. It’s a wild ride through a hellish dinner with an entree of dark secrets and a dessert of violence. When you close the book, be prepared to sit for a moment - it’ll take a moment or two to hit your stomach.
Conclusion: If you don’t get turned off by unlikeable characters (and you shouldn’t) and you want to read a not-so-run-of-the-mill family drama/murder mystery, pick this up.