Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joint Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

by:  Herman Koch
published by:  Random House
publish date:  February 12, 2013

On a summer's evening in Amsterdam, two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act, one 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, and as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

I had read that this book was an international bestseller and how it was full of controversy.  That this book was sure to be the topic of intense discussion.  So, I told Kari "let's do a joint review of this one!".   We both like a bit of controversy, to see on which side of the debate we land.  

I get the book and I'm reading it.  It's all about these two couples meeting at a restaurant for dinner.  For the whole first half of the book, that's pretty much all it's about.  Then they start discussing the incident with their sons.  Their sons were caught on camera, however have not been identified, committing a violent crime.  Their parents are discussing what should be done about it.  

The conclusion left me seriously underwhelmed.  I was expecting something really outrageous.  I guess maybe it was a little crazy, but from all the comments about the book being controversial and a conversation piece I was expecting more.  The rest of the book was good.  It was well written.  It had to be!  How can you write an entire book about 4 people eating one meal and keep the reader going to the end?

I guess my bottom line was that it was good, but not earth shattering.  I could see it being a pretty decent book club pick.  I'm sure there is a lot of conversation fodder in there.

I'm always up for a joint review and this book seemed very interesting.  Unfortunately for me, it didn't live up to my expectations.  I thought it was very dull in parts.  I found myself skimming passages.  While the main part of the story takes place in the restaurant, we do get a pretty good idea of events leading up to the dinner through the narration of Paul.  

I found this book incredibly disturbing and sick.  I hated all of the characters.  None of them seem to have a conscience.  I was also annoyed by the omission of certain details.  Such as the name of the condition that Paul was supposed to be afflicted with that made him violent.  Why not just say it?  I really dislike having to read between the lines.  The ending was puzzling and left me looking for more.  I think I liked it a lot less than Autumn.  

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