Quick Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch
May 10, 2013 18 Comments
This is a book by a Dutch writer that I, being Dutch myself, have read before (in Dutch). Now that the book has become quite popular (or: well-known) outside The Netherlands, I decided to re-read it. Last time (a few years ago), I enjoyed reading the book. This time around… I loved it!
Two couples, the men are brothers, meet for dinner in a posh restaurant in Amsterdam. One of the brothers is a well-known politician, while the other, the narrator, has always stood in his shadow. They need to discuss their two 15-year old sons, who have committed a crime that could have consequences for all of them. The story is told in courses and develops into a very unexpected ending.
This started really well, as I found the observations of the narrator, Paul Lohman, very to the point and funny. For a while, he and I got along really well, until he developed in a man that I could not identify with at all. Paul describes what happens in the restaurant but also looks back on the weeks before the dinner, and further back in time, when Paul and his brother Serge were children.
The way Paul talked about his brother was so poignant: his brother was the important man, the politician who looked down on his brother. But that was nothing new, it was always like that. Paul was bitter about that, but also felt superior in some ways. He had a lot of great comments on the very expensive restaurant where his brother, prime minister to be, managed to reserve a table at short notice, rather than be put on the 5-month long waiting list like other people.
But of course, this book is really about the crime that Paul and Serge’s sons have committed and how they, the parents, are planning to deal with it. They disagree and eventually the evening escalates into something that went rather too far for me, as a solution to the conflict. That was my only negative point about the book.
In all other respects this was a fantastic book to read and a good novel for book clubs, as there is a lot that can be discussed.
Number of pages: 304
First published: 2010 (Netherlands)
I got this book: gifted (Dutch version: Het diner)
Genre: contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
Did you enjoy it?