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The Dinner Paperback – October 29, 2013
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A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013
An ALA Notable Book of the Year
New York Times Bestseller * USA Today Bestseller * Los Angeles Times Bestseller
“A European Gone Girl…The Dinner, a sly psychological thriller that hinges on a horrific crime and its consequences for two families, has become one of spring’s most anticipated suspense novels.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[Koch] has created a clever, dark confection… absorbing and highly readable.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Tongue-in-cheek page-turner.” —The Washington Post
“The best part about The Dinner was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn't get up from the table.” —Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR
“Poised to shake up American publishing…Koch tells a story that could very well take away your appetite.” —USA Today.com
“[A] deliciously Mr. Ripley-esque drama.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“You’ll eat it up, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Koch’s ability to toy with the reader’s alliances while using one family’s distress to consider greater societal ills gives the novel a vital punch.” —Daily Beast
“Every detail…manage[s] to catch our attention when Herman Koch uses them to develop his curious characters and bring us into the dark and thought-provoking plot.” —Seattle Post Intelligencer
“A tart main course that explores how quickly the facade of civility can crumble. It's hard to digest at times, but with a thought-provoking taste that lingers.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The novel has been called the Gone Girl of the Continent, and not without cause: Like Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, it’s a tale told by an unreliable narrator, full of twists and skillfully executed revelations, ultimately registering as a black parable about the deceptively civilized surface of cosmopolitan, middle-class lives…What Koch achieves with his prose—plain but undergirded by breathtaking angles, like a beautiful face scrubbed free of makeup — is a brilliantly engineered and (for the thoughtful reader) chastening mindfuck. The novel is designed to make you think twice, then thrice, not only about what goes on within its pages, but also the next time indignation rises up, pure and fiery, in your own heart.” —Salon.com
“Briskly paced and full of ingenious twists—a compulsive read…for those who can tolerate the unsavory company, The Dinner is a treat they’ll gulp down in one sitting.”
—Dallas Morning News
“The Dinner begins with drinks and dark satire, and goes stealthily and hauntingly from there. It's chilling, nasty, smart, shocking and unputdownable. Read the novel in one big gulp, and then make plans with friends—you’ll be desperate to debate this book over cocktails, appetizers, entrees, dessert…and then you still won't be done talking about it.” —Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
“Funny, provocative and exceedingly dark, this is a brilliantly addictive novel that wraps its hands around your throat on page one and doesn’t let go.” —SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
“Herman Koch has written a sneakily disturbing novel. He lures us into his story with his unfailingly reasonable tone (just acidic enough to be entertaining), and before we know it we've found ourselves in places we never would've consented to go. The Dinner is a smart, amiably misanthropic book, and it's tremendous fun to read.” —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“The Dinner is a riveting, compelling and a deliciously uncomfortable read. Like all great satire it is both lacerating and so very funny... Intelligent and complex, this novel is both a punch to the guts and also a tonic. It clears the air. A wonderful book.”
—Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap
“What a tremendous book. I loved every single gripping and strange thing about it.”
—MJ Hyland, author of Carry Me Down
“By the end of The Dinner you'll have to rethink everything, including who you are and what you believe. This is a book you won't forget.” —David Vann, author of Dirt
“Mesmerizing and disturbing… fast-paced and addictive…The Dinner, already a bestseller in Europe, is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.”
“This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners…before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller…With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life…this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness…Koch’s slow revelation of the central crisis is expertly paced, and he’s opened up a serious question of what parents owe their children, and how much of their character is passed on to them…a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances.”
International Praise for The Dinner
“The perfect undemanding, credible, terrifying beach read.” —Financial Times
‘‘[The Dinner] proves how powerful fiction can be in illuminating the modern world...The reader does not rise from his table happy and replete so much as stand up suddenly, pale and reeling. Bored with Fifty Shades of Grey and all that brouhaha? Read The Dinner—and taste the shock.” —The Economist
“I’m confidently predicting that The Dinner will become this summer’s literary talk of the town—and the Twittersphere—here in the UK, as it already is in Continental Europe, where the novel has sold more than a million copies. Order yours now.”
“Shivers kept shooting up my backbone as I became engrossed in Koch’s darkly disturbing tale of family life. . .As the dinner disintegrates into mayhem, we discover just how far the middle classes will go to protect their monstrous offspring.” —Daily Mail
“Rather like The Slap it is set to become a contentious must-read. It may thrill, chill or cheat, but it is undeniably riveting.” —The Independent
“This tense and thought-provoking family drama is set to become a major literary talking point as it asks the question: Just how far would you go to protect your family?” —The Bookseller
“Hugely accomplished and surprisingly subtle.” —Readers Digest (UK)
About the Author
HERMAN KOCH is the author of seven novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in twenty-five countries, and was the winner of the Publieksprijs Prize in 2009. He currently lives in Amsterdam.
- Publisher : Hogarth; Reprint edition (October 29, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385346859
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385346856
- Item Weight : 10.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #89,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Paul Lohman and his wife Claire are meeting Paul's brother, Serge and his wife Babette for a posh dinner at a restaurant with a seven month waiting list...No problem there for Serge, a well-known politician running for Prime Minister...
Paul, our narrator, kvetches straight away about the high prices, the lack of food on each plate and the wait staff...but we really get the impression that he is secretly envious of his competitive Brother's fame and the obnoxious way he flaunts it...
As each course is served, we slowly are let in on the purpose of the dinner: their teenaged sons have committed a terrible crime...they have blown up a homeless woman who was sleeping in an ATM cubicle that the cousins wanted to use to withdraw some euros, and the adults need to talk about what can be done to protect their sons...
This review is only a nutshell synopsis of the novel, to elaborate more would possibly spoil the story for some...
Excellent novel! I devoured THE DINNER in 2 days. I've read some pretty scathing Amazon customer reviews about this remarkable little book. I guess everyone to his own opinion...but I found this story to be a real page-turner...especially the last 50%. It was controversial and thought-provoking ...and not in a lofty, boring way. After all, isn't that what a great novel does?
The novel begins slow, and well, is actually boring, the narrative voice telling how he and his wife are getting ready to meet another couple at an upscale restaurant. They are not looking forward to it.
We learn that the other couple is the narrator's brother and sister-in-law, and the brother is going to run for Prime Minister. The brothers have a strained history and relationship. The narrator had a 'meltdown' in the classroom when he was teaching and was on medication.
There is a scene before the dinner where the narrator looks at his son's cell phone and is not pleased with what he discovers.
How would this evening, our dinner at the restaurant, have proceeded, had I indeed quit right then and there? from The Dinner by Herman Koch
There is a lot of description of the meal and the staff and how the sister-in-law is wearing dark glasses to hide that she has been crying.
And when we discover what it is that brought these parents together, you may wish you were not reading this book. It's too late--you have to keep turning pages. The crime is so horrendous! And the cover-up is even more disturbing.
The plotting is masterful.
But I wish I had not read this book!
Did I mention it is DISTURBING?
What would YOU do if your fifteen-year-old son had committed a crime? How far would YOU go to protect your child?
Maybe we don't take that seriously enough...How young they are. To the outside world, they're suddenly adults, because they did something that we, as adults, consider a crime. But I feel that they've responded to it more like children. from The Dinner by Herman Koch
Would you rationalize your child's behavior? Hide the crime? Smooth the way without repercussions? Or make the child own up to his error, support their turning themselves over to the authorities? Would consider bribery or threats or violence? Or set a standard of morality and law?
So be forewarned--you will encounter some nasty folk, and if you pick the book up, be prepared for a slow simmer that comes to a roiling boil.
Top reviews from other countries
The book gets off to a flying start, with some great observational humour as Paul, the narrator, looks forward apprehensively to the evening ahead. Koch is great at 'showing' rather than 'telling' and we learn as much about Paul's relationship with his wife and brother from reading between the lines as from what he actually says. But this is only the first layer of the onion - as the book progresses, outward appearances are stripped away until eventually each character is laid bare to us in all their prejudices and flaws. And a pretty unsavoury bunch they are, with Paul himself turning out to be far more complex than he gives us to believe at the beginning. The whole thing slowly becomes very dark, and though it's clearly heading for a dramatic climax, it's not at all obvious what that will be until it arrives.
I read Koch's Summer House with Swimming Pool a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The twisted morality and dark storyline mixed with some great black humour to make an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. The focus was on the father and asked the same question - what would you do to protect your children? I've noticed that many people who read The Dinner first found Summer House a bit disappointing because it trod a similar path. Reading them in reverse, I found The Dinner a little disappointing for the same reason.
The Dinner is one of those books where it's important to know as little as possible going in to get the full effect of the various surprises, so I'll say no more about the plot. But there were a couple of other things that made me like it a little less than Summer House. Though there is some good observational humour in The Dinner, it doesn't have quite the edge as in Summer House. In it, the humour is often cruel, but wickedly close to what we maybe all think but don't say from time to time - and then feel appalled at ourselves for thinking it. In this one, I didn't get that feeling of delicious recognition and guilt - the humour was more straightforward. But the big difference - and I'll have to be a little oblique to avoid spoilers - is that there is some small degree of moral justification for the actions in Summer House, but absolutely none that I could accept in The Dinner. Therefore while I had some sympathy for some characters in Summer House, I had none at all for any of them in The Dinner.
But the mild disappointment in this one is only because of the comparison. In itself, this is a good dark psychological thriller, where the quality of the writing and characterisation helps to get the reader past the lack of credibility at some parts of the story - for most of the time. Personally, I found the ending asked me to suspend my disbelief a little too much, but this didn't destroy my enjoyment of the book overall. The translation from the original Dutch is again by Sam Garrett, who does another very fine job with it. I'll be interested to see where Koch's dark imagination takes us in future...
This is all perceptive comment for reflection, and taken alone could easily lead to despair. But Koch’s account lacks any inclusion of human virtue which might restore some hope in our ontology, our behavioural options, and our human future.
The courses of a meal in a restaurant are used as the framework for flashbacks that gradually reveal the history and relationships of those eating the meal, and of their families. This technique is very skilfully used to tantalise the reader with hints and suggestions, but not in an annoying way. Be assured that the author explains everything in the end.
Although the action essentially takes place in a single evening, this is by no means a short story and the flashbacks range widely over the recent and the more distant past. It certainly keeps you guessing and wanting to read on to find out more.
My only very minor criticisms are that none of the characters is very likeable, the narrator does not seem to have any way of earning a living (although he is not short of money) and the ending is a little abrupt. However, I recommend ignoring these insignificant drawbacks and seeing if you can predict how the story will end.
The eBook is of a good quality with only a small handful of errors that should have been weeded out during proof reading.
The main aspect of the plotline related to violence but the author almost seemed to trivialise it as lot of it (including the main violent act which is the main focus of the plot), seemed to be swept under the carpet quickly and the author then moved on to more trivial aspects. The ending I think was meant to be a shock to show how far parents would go to protect their child but is just seemed wrong and very much out of the blue and again over in less than a chapter. It was very disappointing and wouldn't make me want to read anything else by Herman Koch.