Thursday, 21 August 2014
The Dinner by Herman Koch
This book was chosen for our book club read, I was intrigued by the cover & couldn't wait to start it. “The Dinner,” is a relatively new translated novel by the Dutch writer Herman Koch, has been a European sensation and an international best seller.
This is the story of one family's response to the havoc their children have wrought, and how they choose to deal with it. It's a novel of mystery and suspense, while at the same time making a satiric social commentary on parenting and the fusses of high end living. The novel follows Paul, the father of one of the young men of questionable behavior, as he sets out to dinner with his wife to meet his brother and sister-in-law at a rather upscale restaurant. It is evident, from the very beginning, that Paul's relationship with his brother is quite estranged and that they don't see eye to eye, but it isn't until the couples meet that the reader begins to see just how different the two families really are.
Tensions are high throughout dinner, and though it takes time for the truth of the children's misdeeds to hit the light, Koch does it in such a way that the reader is captivated throughout the meal, slowly putting together the pieces of the puzzle as Paul attempts to figure out what to do next. Alongside Paul, we are thrust into the men's bathroom, we hide alongside the restaurant, we read texts and delete messages, we watch videos we ought not to see, all to figure out exactly what he knows that he isn't telling us. I really enjoyed being inside Paul's head, even though I didn't know everything up front, and Koch does a phenomenal job keeping the readers interest throughout it all.
Although I found the novel a bit slow to start and get going but once it did, it was brilliantly paced. There is a bracing nastiness to this book that grows ever more intense with the turning of its pages. It will not please those who seek the cozy, the redemptive or the uplifting. If you are such a reader, you may stop right here. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more work from this author. I am dying to discuss it with my book club, I'm sure it'll raise some strong, heady ideas about love and loyalty, about justice and morality, but it doesn't hammer you over the head with them. Instead, it stabs you in the gut.