The Dinner by Herman Koch

dinnerWell.

Where do I even start? I guess a synopsis of some kind is a good idea.

The Dinner takes place in one evening. Through the course of one meal (um… the dinner). All we know when it begins is that two couples are meeting for dinner at a fashionable restaurant. It’s a last-minute reservation, but one of them has the clout needed to get a table, and the others resent him for it. That in itself was an intriguing set up.

Conversation is banal and awkward, but generally polite. Meanwhile the reader is aware there are things unsaid. Big things. Things that must be discussed before the meal ends. I have to say, Koch has done an incredible job here at building and maintaining the tension. I was so stressed while reading I booked a massage before I finished. My upper back and neck are holding all the tension of those 304 pages.

Each of the couples has a fifteen-year-old son. The sons have done something terrible. No one at the table seems to know how much the other three actually know about it. Each is desperately trying to protect their family. Each seemingly trying to pretend this is not that big a deal.

The Dinner looks not only at the actions of the boys and where these may have come from, but at how parenting styles, family relationships, genetics and mental illness may have each played a role. As the evening progresses we see through flashbacks how the families have reached the situation they are now facing. Prepare to be shocked – horrified even – and touched by the words and actions of all characters. You will judge the parents and the children, and at some stage, place the blame in each of the characters’ hands.

Incredibly written, hard to read yet impossible to put down. First really good, thought-provoking novel I have read in a while.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Hogarth (Feb 12 2013)
ISBN-10: 0770437850
ISBN-13: 978-0770437855

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