Quick Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman KochThis 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.

Rating: 5/5

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?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Quick Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

  1. Melinda says:

    Will you consider reading it in English too?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Melinda, no. I don’t see a reason to read it in English. I prefer to read books in their original language. I haven’t heard any complaints about the translation, though, so I think you can safely read it in English. 🙂

      • Melinda says:

        Ok 🙂
        Reason I asked is that I like re-reading my favourites, and if they were in Afr and there is an English version I would do it out of curiosity 🙂

      • Leeswammes says:

        I see! Maybe if I saw it in the library in English, I’d have a quick look at the language – I would be curious, yes.

  2. Just picked up the audio version from the library yesterday. Looking forward to it after I finish my current audio book: Magnificence; Lydia Millet. Glad u loved it.

  3. This sounds like my sort of book .It is great to see that you’ve given it 5 stars – hopefully I’ll love it as much as you did when I try it in the next week or two.

  4. Charlie says:

    I like that you’ve discussed this twice, and it’s interesting that you read it soon afterwards and had a different opinion on it. I’m currently half-and-half about reading it, though only because of having other books – it sounds really good.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I haven’t read this yet. I might 😉 I’ve seen so many mixed reviews! That’s a good thing though!

  6. Marie says:

    I have read a lot of mixed review on this but it definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy so hopefully I will pick up a copy soon. If you found it good enough to read twice, I trust that it’s worth my time 🙂

  7. It does seem to be everywhere at the moment but I’m not tempted to read it. I think it mgiht be because I’ve overdosed on books that start with a crime and are more about reactions than any sort of mystery..

  8. Shan says:

    I agree with you about really liking Paul in the beginning and then having him turn out to be someone you really can’t get behind. With the English translation, there are a few words that aren’t translated. I told my dad “I’m reading this book and guess what? I’ve learned another Dutch swear word!” My ability to swear is beginning to eclipse everything else I know in Dutch.

  9. I didn’t mind this, but it caused a lot of discussion in the book club I went to. They dislike everything!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Really, Sam? It’s a pity that they disliked it so much, but it’s always nice when a book evokes strong reactions and a good discussion.

  10. Pingback: The Dinner by Herman Koch (& GIVEAWAY) | Iris on Books

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