Reading some books is a visceral rather than an intellectual exercise. Not that such books don’t provide any food for thought, but the reader’s emotional, instinctive response to them is what really makes the book. The Dinner by Herman Koch (translated by Sam Garrett) makes you feel a lot of things.
The novel is mostly set inside of a posh restaurant in Amsterdam, where the narrator Paul and his wife are meeting his brother and his wife for dinner. Dinner however is the last thing on their minds as they are reallly there to discuss the future of their children, who have committed a horrifying crime. The book is divided into sections, like the menu of a restaurant, beggining with Aperitif and ending with Digestif, and the story, peppered with flashbacks, moves forward with each course.
The book raises many questions from the evils of social media to larger issues of politics and integrity, but at its core it remains the story of a family. However, it leaves one feeling disturbed and wondering about the secrets that familes hide to protect their members. It is chilling and hard to digest.
If one is the sort of reader that prefers “likeable” characters, then this book is best avoided. The narrator is unreliable, his brother is insufferable, their children are monsters. One wants to like the women but finds that they are equally capable of being cold and calculating. The combined emotion they all evoke from the reader is one of disgust and possibly, fear. It is this unlikability of the characters that makes this book tick.
To say anything more would be to ruin the book. All that remains to be said is that I wish this book were a play or a movie–not that it lacks anything by being a book, but because it is wonderful book, it has the potential to be a good movie.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.