The Dinner by Herman Koch: A Book Review

9780385346856An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal.

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, 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.
     Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

My Review: I wanted to read this book because the premise sounded very intriguing. I always enjoy a story that can be told over the course of one event, or take place in one room. I think it’s incredibly fascinating when an author can captivate an audience with a dialog-driven plot. However, this story left me feeling very disappointed and a little depressed.

The book is about two brothers and their wives who meet to have dinner and discuss some serious issues involving their children. The story is told from the perspective of one of the brothers. I really wish I could have liked this book, because it had a great premise. From the beginning, the story is slow and mundane, and I found none of the characters likable. As the story progresses, we discover that Paul (The brother sharing the story with us) is a deeply troubled individual with some sort of mental condition. As the story continues to unfold, I am convinced that he is nothing more than a complete psychopath. For that matter, all of the characters lack any sort of moral compass and the ideas weaved throughout this book are rather frightening and depressing. After reading this book, one is left with the feeling that humankind is hopeless, heartless and horrible. Although I know there are some genuinely horrible people in the world, I am comforted to know that the majority of the world does not think and act like these characters. I am all for a dark, suspenseful and intriguing novel, but this was just depressing, boring and disturbing.  Skip it.


*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.


HERMAN KOCH is the author of eight novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in forty countries and was an international bestseller. He currently lives in Amsterdam.


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