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.
Thoughts : I will never understand why The Dinner has such awful ratings on Goodreads. It in incomprehensible.
The Dinner is a story about two couples who meet for dinner to discuss what their sons have done. Their sons have committed an awful crime, one that cannot be understood by normal folk and their criminal act has been caught on camera. Fortunately (or unfortunately) only their parents have been able to recognise them in the grainy flickering footage so they meet to discuss the best course of action. Should they let their sons know that they know? Should the boys turn themselves in? Or should they cover it all up.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to read 200 plus pages that cover just a dinner but it doesn’t just cover the dinner. It covers events leading up to it, it covers events leading up to the crime and it covers what happens after dinner too. So it isn’t a boring old book about entrees and main courses and desserts.
The story starts off with them meeting for dinner, analysing what the location means, analysing what affects the person who chose the location. If he chose it doesn’t it mean this? What if I had chosen it? Would it give me an upper hand? If I order the expensive wine what does that mean? All the little doubts you have (don’t lie, you know you have such doubts) and more voiced by an upstanding citizen.
The writing weaves in and out between flashbacks, current conversations and the thoughts of the main character who’s POV is the only POV we are offered. This serves to make it both a simple read and a complicated read. Simple because we don’t need to see other’s points of view, we can take his point of view and follow what happens. Complicated because….can we trust this POV?
Herman Koch isn’t writing a thriller in the traditional sense with this book. His book is in fact a psychological analysis of what really goes on in the minds of the day to day “normal” folk we know, our neighbours, our friends and our teachers. Supposedly respectable decent folk who never reveal the dark side of themselves because it isn’t done in civilised society. Reading this will leave you chilled to the bone and you probably won’t look at people the same again.
Don’t read this if you want happy happy fairy dust kind of characters who leave you with a fuzzy feeling. That’s not going to happen. This is dark and chilling and will leave you surprised and completely suspicious of everyone.
I rated The Dinner four stars simply because, like a lot of people said, it took a while to get going, around 50 pages, but when it did, it thoroughly sucked me in. I’m now a fan of Herman Koch and really looking forward to Dear Mr.M and Summer House With Swimming Pool.
Have you read any of Koch’s books?