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The Dinner Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 12, 2013

3.3 out of 5 stars 2,284 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: A good unreliable narrator is one of the most satisfying characters a novelist can dream up--and Herman Koch takes us on a hell of a ride through the mind of Paul Lohman, the deliciously sinister host of The Dinner. Paul's 15-year-old son, Michel, has committed an unspeakable crime; his brother, on the cusp of becoming the Netherlands' next prime minister, has a delicate wife and two teenagers who share Michel’s secret; Paul's wife, Claire, will do anything to protect their boy. As the two couples inch through an excruciating meal at a chic restaurant--their children's whereabouts uncertain--Paul peels back the layers of their situation, weaving to and fro through time and truth. Koch's finely structured story gives away just enough on each page to keep us riveted, feeling like private investigators on the verge of discovery, until the shock of an ending. It's no small feat for the author that the less we trust Paul, the more we want to hear what he has to say. --Mia Lipman

From Booklist

Already a runaway hit throughout Europe, boasting more than a million copies sold, Koch’s sixth novel arrives stateside, giving readers here a chance to mull over some rather meaty moral quandaries. But not so fast. First, Koch has a few false paths to lead us down. The story starts off casually and unassumingly with a dinner between two brothers, one running for prime minister of the Netherlands, along with their wives at one of Amsterdam’s finest establishments. The other brother, as narrator, sharply ridicules every absurd element of the night to great effect. But just as everything settles in, Koch pivots, and these pointed laughs quickly turn to discussion about their teenage boys and something they’ve done. And it’s at this point when readers will feel two distinct ideologies forming and will face the novel’s vital question: which position to side with? Koch’s organic style makes for a continuously engaging read that, if anything, leaves readers wanting more. Another 100 pages or so exploring these issues further would have been more than welcome, but what is here will no doubt stir some heady debates. --Casey Bayer

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hogarth; First American Edition edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0770437850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0770437855
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian J. Greene VINE VOICE on October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have both positive and negative things to say about this book.

First, the plot: The story is of two brothers - one an unemployed former high school teacher who suffers from a vague illness that causes him to be sometimes unable to control his violent impulses, the other a boorish but popular politician who might be on his way to becoming the Prime Minister - who have teenage sons who have gotten into some Clockwork Orange-like nastiness. The boys have not yet been caught by the authorities in their criminal deeds, but their parents know what they have been up to, and the two brothers and their respective wives are meeting at a restaurant to discuss the dilemma over dinner.

Now, the positives: the bad deeds the boys engage in are as random and senseless as they are brutal and severe. And the boys themselves are not the kind of kids you'd expect to engage in such activities. I found all of that completely believable and compelling, and it hit me on a personal level because I was once a teenage boy who was basically a "good kid" but who sometimes gave way to impulses a boy of that age can have, and got into some vandalism-involved nastiness that I'm still sorry for to this day. The bad things the boys do are both horrifying and believable and that makes the story gripping. Something else I liked about the book, and that also touches me personally, is the explorations of various aspects of parenting. Through the story, you get glimpses of the complexities involved in a parent's relationship to their child as it is affected by the relationship the kid has with one's spouse, its other parent, and how the relationships between the three are so intertwined. This is handled most effectively in the book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The whole story takes place over the course of one over-priced dinner, between two brothers and their wives. An unknown crime, committed by the two couples' fifteen year old sons, has brought together, Serge and Paul Lohman, along with their wives, Claire and Babette. Serge is running for Prime Minister of Holland, while the narrator, Paul, is an unemployed school teacher who was let go for an 'incident' that is told of in layers as the novel moves along.

The book starts off with Paul giving us his view of the world. Paul feels above the fray as he pokes fun at anyone who might put on 'airs', starting with his politician brother. The author really sucked me into Paul's world, and with great skill convinced me that Paul was the put-upon one in the story. I won't give anything away, because this book is a fascinating study of a human being who's deeply troubled, yet sounds perfectly rational as he takes us through his life, giving us his view of what's going on.

The story meanders through Paul's mind, which is key to who Paul is. Like a kid on too much sugar, Paul flits from one subject to another, teasing us with bits and pieces of what happened between the boys. We are privy to how a mind works that is totally different from a normal, morally mature mind. I gasped in horror at times at how normal the author made his main character seem. By the time the story ended I felt as if I'd spent time in a psych-ward for the criminally insane. Horrified because the author made it all sound so sensible.

It's good that a skilled author can capture the thoughts and motivations of someone who doesn't fit into civilized society so we can see just how to deal with such people. Do they poison others around them, or do they attract those who are just like them?
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Format: Hardcover
I read a review copy that came stuffed with publicity material, so perhaps my expectations were too high.

The suspense depends on the deliberate withholding of information (a common enough contrivance in this genre), with each chapter carefully delivering a small new dose of revelation. But the game quickly became too mechanical for me, and I found myself skimming impatiently -- so apologies if I missed something.

Here are a few things that ultimately bothered me. (SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!)

This criticism, I notice, has been voiced already, but it's pretty fundamental: The narrator's brother is supposed to be a famous Dutch politician who's just about to run for -- what is it, president, premier, prime minister... whatever. He's a national celebrity. (In fact, during the dinner a man and his daughter come up to him, complete strangers, and ask to take a photo.) And the purpose of the dinner, we learn, is so that the politician and his wife, and the narrator and HIS wife, can come clean with one another and discuss what to do about the fact that their respective teenage sons are homicidal psychopaths currently wanted for a murder that has shocked all Europe.

Now, you'd think the last place the politician would want this crucial (and shady) meeting to be held would be at a crowded high-priced high-end restaurant with every other patron eyeing the foursome, waiters in attendance, etc. What an unlikely choice! And then, peculiarly, the subject of the sons and their crime doesn't even come up till late in the dinner; before that it's basically small talk.
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