Simon's Bookcase

Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe

The Dinner

The Dinner: Herman Koch, September 3—5, 2016

My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

TheDinnerTwo brothers and their wives have dinner together to discuss how to address the fact their respective children have committed a heinous crime on CCTV but have not, as yet, been identified.

The Dinner is divided into the sections of a meal: aperitif through to dessert. Narrated by one of the brothers, probably two-thirds of the content is in flashback with the balance set at the meal. Paul is an ex-teacher, while Serge is expected to become Prime Minister after the election.

The book isn’t really about the crime, and definitely not the fallout. In fact, the discussion at the table doesn’t reach the incident itself until dessert. Much more, it’s Paul’s musings on his own past, the way he and Claire have raised Michel, and what it says about them now. Prevailing themes are happiness, secrets and heredity.

The Dinner has been compared by many to Gone Girl (The Wall Street JournalThe Evening StandardCosmopolitan and Salon among others) but the two books have little in common besides the sociopathic characters leading the cast. For all that there are twists and surprises, Koch makes no attempt to emulate the Flynn-esque red herrings or mystique. Events may unfold in two time streams, but the storytelling is much more interested in why? than what?. To brand The Dinner as the European Girl is to miss the point of one or both books; The Dinner isn’t a poor man’s Girl at all, but a rich explorative entity of its own.

As the novel progresses, Paul unravels from his genteel facade to quite a sinister, menacing presence. The distinction between dialogue, action and thought blurs and the narration becomes more unreliable. In many respects, The Dinner shares more in common with American Psycho.

The message is a little confused; it flits between macro statements about human nature and a specific set of circumstances within the confines of a particular family set up. It’s unclear if we’re seeing the brutal reality of human nature, or something that flows against the tide. Koch puts a lot of work into creating a multi-layered dilemma but doesn’t see it through, though there is still plenty of food for thought.

The Dinner serves up a delicious web of divided loyalties and disturbed individuals, with a writing style that whets your appetite from page 1 and keeps you going until the very end.


One comment on “The Dinner

  1. Pingback: The Grownup | Simon's Bookcase

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This entry was posted on September 5, 2016 by in 4 star and tagged .

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@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare