Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman Koch

4.5 ⭐️’s from me

Goodreads Summary: “An 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 polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. 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.

Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. 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:

This is a delectably sinister story of two couples forced to deal with the acts of their sons – who happen to be cousins. Be prepared to sit down with this novel as if you were going out to a fancy restaurant – you will devour it in one sitting. The progression of this novel is perfectly split into sections which are labeled the courses of a meal; a split that seems to echo the progression of tension in the story.

I also loved the narration of this novel by one of the fathers, Paul. At the beginning this seems to be a normal family with their inevitable bickering and jealous, but as the meal progresses the dysfunction runs so much deeper than that. Paul grows from a seemingly normal father to one with increasingly frightening thoughts, just over the course of a meal. His narration explores the struggles of marriage, mental health, and above all the roles of a parent. Somehow we are also able to observe the jealousy of siblings, particularly when it comes to one’s economic standing. How big can those differences be? Who is right? You will have to decide.

Koch also vividly creates the restaurant atmosphere in the reader’s mind. It is not only what is said, but also Paul’s observations of the waiting staff, patrons, and his own family members – a glance here or there, a hand out of place. I felt as if I was eating at the table myself. It is no wonder that this will soon be a movie.

This is a dark and disquieting read, but I definitely recommend it. The movie edition of the book is out in paperback today!

**I received my copy via Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to the author and publisher for this opportunity.**

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch”

  1. This is a great review. I personally didn’t like this book at all but I love very seeing it from your perspective and discovering all the things you loved about it.


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