The Dinner by Herman Koch, review by Shirley Wells
If you liked Gone Girl, you'll love The Dinner by Herman Koch. It's a wild ride, and none of the characters can be trusted!
The basic premise is that two couples are meeting for dinner at a pretentious, upscale restaurant on a summer evening. Serge, one of the diners, is a prominent politician who appears destined to be voted into the highest office in the country. His wife Babette may not love--or even like--him much, but she does love the affluence and public lifestyle he
provides. The other couple, Paul and Claire, are at the restaurant because they feel obligated to be there, not because they enjoy their companions' company. In fact, almost everything about the other couple annoys our narrator Paul, and, at first, we readers adopt the same attitude.
But this novel is full of surprises, and one of the first is that Serge is Paul's brother. Other revelations quickly follow, and the ones that involve their teenage sons are quite shocking. The characters themselves aren't aware of how much the others know which adds to the suspense and confusion; for example, Paul thinks he is protecting his wife by keeping their son's actions a secret when she actually knows more than he does about what has
occurred. And just when you begin to sympathize with one character, new facts come to light, and you switch alliances. By the end of the book, you realize that what appears to be a polite dinner among relatives has murderous, savage undertones.
An important question runs throughout The Dinner: just how far will parents go to protect their children? No easy answers are provided--either for the characters or for we readers. All the loose ends are not easily tied up in the end; instead, some guilty parties disturbingly appear to have literally gotten away with murder.
Dutch author Herman Koch has cleverly organized the story into the courses of the dinner as it is served to the two couples: Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, and Digestif. The plot within each course also corresponds appropriately to its function, enabling the plot to unfold in a deliciously suspenseful fashion.
The audiobook of The Dinner is also available to rent for $2.50 a week at Watermark.