August 06, 2015

Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

Title: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch
Published: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Hardcover, 292 pgs

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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.

This book had me hooked! I picked it up from a B&N table, without a clue as to what it was about or who the author was (you should try it sometime, its like going on an adventure!) and I'm so glad I did. 

The novel is cleverly divided up into five courses of the meal: Apertif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, and Digestif. In between each course (which is described in a humorously detailed way), we are introduced to our cast of characters: Paul, our narrator, Claire his wife, Serge, his brother, and Babette his sister-in-law. The four of them have sat down to dinner to discuss their teenage children and an event that could be catastrophic for the family. 

As the secrets begin to unfold, the reader is constantly surprised by the twists, turns, and lies that can happen within such a small family. In addition to the fierce protectiveness of both sides, there is also this tension that stays from the beginning of dinner straight through to the end that will remind you of every single time you've had an awkward meal with your relatives. 

The author, Herman Koch, has an incredible sense of humor. I wouldn't call this novel a comedy, not by any means, but there were parts that I found hilarious. Within all the seriousness of the secrets, within the immense tension and suspense, you still find yourself absolutely drawn to the comedy of the entire situation. It's an incredible feat! 

5 out of 5 stars

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