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Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life” – The Dinner, Herman Koch

amsterdam-1150319_1920Initial thoughts: The title The Dinner is probably the least sinister title I can ever imagine giving this book. And yet, it’s unassuming title allows you to put your guard down. I was instantaneously drawn to this book because the author is from the Netherlands, and I’m attempting to read one book from every country as a reading challenge (a challenge that ended up being harder than I ever imagined).

Plot Summary

On a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said. Each couple has a fifteen- year- old son. The boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act. As civility and friendship disintegrate, both couples show just how far they will go to protect those they love” – Amazon

The Review

As I said, The Dinner is probably the strangest title to give a thriller, especially this novel in particular. Even in it’s original language of Dutch this book is called “Het dinner.” When I think of a book called The Dinner, I think of some sort of television show on the Food Network, where people visit restaurants and have meaningless conversations about food consistency and presentation. Although you will find colourful descriptions that will make your mouth water, The Dinner is a pure thriller/mystery novel through and through. 

The story begins with Paul, our narrator, complaining to his wife Claire about going out to dinner with his brother and sister-in-law. The dinner is at a highly exclusive restaurant that takes months to book a reservation. Of course, this is no trouble for Paul’s brother, Serge, a senator campaigning to become prime minister. Paul’s complaints seem to be reasonable. Serge isn’t the humblest of politicians, nor is he the nicest brother in the world. But there are other concerns than mere food on everyone’s mind. As the evening goes on, and the courses are presented, their casual conversations take a dark turn. No one wants to confess what happened one night to their children. Everyone has a secret they do not wish to reveal.

The Dinner is broken up into five parts based on each course: aperitif, appetizer, entre, desert and digestif. Although this is a thriller, and a dark thriller at that, I found my mouth watering from the descriptions of the food.

At the start of the novel, I liked Paul. He seemed like an ordinary man who just felt a little irked about his brother’s request to have dinner. Honestly, once I got to know Serge through Paul, I probably wouldn’t want to go out to dinner with Serge either, even if the restaurant is an exclusive dining experience. Without any spoilers to detract you from savoring this novel, once I reached the ending, I found that I really disliked all the characters, and yet, I felt very invested. This is really hard to pull off for a writer, so kudos to Koch.

The Dinner was adapted into a movie this year in early 2017 staring Richard Gere. I found myself yawning early on in the movie, and tuned out half way through. The movie just takes away the suspense that the book works so hard to build up before shocking the readers into a frenzy. As a warning, just don’t watch the movie. Read the book and move on.

Even though this was a very quick read, it was a little lack lustre. The suspense and mystery are present throughout the book befitting the genre. But, I was expecting something else to happen near the end. Instead the book takes a nosedive and just ends as if the author got tired of his characters.

Final Rating:

C okay

About the Book
Title: The Dinner (original title: Het diner)
Author: Herman Koch 
Translator: Sam Garrett 
pacing: Fast
pages: 292
year published: 2009
genres & subjects: fiction, mystery, thriller

Until Next Time,