Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: "The Dinner" by Herman Koch

The Dinner Herman Koch
Published: February 12, 2013
ISBN: 9780770437855
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (September Book Club Selection)
Recommended for readers looking for a conversation fodder book club selection

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.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that I file under "appreciated, but did not enjoy."  I mean, I really, really, really did not enjoy this book.  At the same time, I won't say that it is a "bad" book and I think that it is a work that did what it set out to do.

And what was that exactly?  The message that I got from this book is that people--in this case the teenage boys--aren't just "that way."  Parents and family have an immense influence on children and they do bear some responsibility when the children make horrific choices.  While that is a bit a blanket statement, it is clearly the case in this story.

The story is a tough one all around.  The action the boys took is horrific and the dinner is, well, as painful as one would expect.  There was not a single likable character in this book (there was one I started off liking but truly despised by the end)--but I can't hold that against this particular book.

It is safe to say that this is not a book that is meant to be enjoyed.  It is, however, a thought-provoking book that should spark discussion.  I can't say that I would never recommend this book to someone else--I do think that it would be a good choice for some book clubs (I may change my mind about that after our book club meets), but it is definitely not something I would recommend to someone just looking for a good book to read.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

The Dinner
by Herman Koch

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