A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son.
The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrates, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
©2009 Herman Koch (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
The Dinner is a spectacular book about family and society, among other things as well. This is not a cute book. It's heavy because it's about heavy things, and because it doesn't take heavy things lightly.
I liked the progression from bland dinner table conversation, pigmented with hints of a couple of mysterious incidents (something found in the phone of Paul's teenage son; Paul's sister-in-law arriving for dinner with traces of tears in her eyes), to the unfolding of the drama behind the dinner. The drama that started years before with instances of personal drama and of parenting; the drama that spikes in a horrific incident, then again in discussing it at home, then again at the dinner table.
The fact that this is a Dutch novel is extremely relevant, since Dutch society struggles with a very tolerant front which sometimes comes up to kick itself in the teeth. It is amazing what torments hide behind the blandness of equality and tolerance - not that they always turn violent, but that fear of speaking up against indiscriminate equality becomes oppressive in itself.
"The Dinner" is a painful analysis of society and family, delivered not from a high moral standpoint, but with a subtle understanding of nuances, of small things that make up or break up lives and relationships.
The publisher''s summary describes the set up well. While the story centres around a dinner at a restaurant one evening between two couples, what is revealed slowly over the course of the story are the events that have has preceded this night and the real reason as to why the couples have come together for this dinner. That is fine as it goes and I found it intriguing.
The real problem with the story, however, is that what is described as having occurred prior to the dinner is reasonably improbable. I just found it hard to believe. The couples' reaction to it I found equally unlikely in a normal world and what comes after the dinner is also hard to swallow. This is really unfortunate as the author spends quite a bit of time making insightful observations about dinners and about restaurants generally which will resonate with a lot of readers and is quite amusing. But in the end, what should have been a work that could have been drawn from real life just turned into more or less a bit of a fantasy tale.
Other commentators have remarked on the slowness of the reveal and the pace of the book. I did not find that a problem at all as the whole basis of the story is the slow reveal. The little pieces that you put together one by one as the story unfolds. It is just that all the pieces do not, in the end, add up to very much.
the narrator was ok i would think about listening to him but the story was boring, i did not enjoy it i wouldnt read him again
better story faster moving
clear, steady, understandable
Tasteful, spicy and bitter!
The wife of the narrator because she is the synthesis of all the other characters.
I strongly recommend this book, the story has a very good suspense, nothing is what it seems to be, the setting of a family dinner in a high class restaurant is perfect to dramatize a fantastic satire of our society.
I loved the speakers voice and how he made me experience the story.
the story itself is nice and has some unexpected plot twists which I loved. though the book is quite long because of the numerous descriptions.
Story of The Dinner unfolds as slowly as the dinner seems to move. Somehow it keeps one captivated and the reader gets more and more into the mind of the narrater. One who, in turn, becomes slowly less and less sympathetic.
In the peaceful Netherlands two well-off couples in a first class restaurant travel from Aperitif to Digestive and Coffee. During their journey there is plenty to discover, and unfortunately it is not very pleasant.
A very good book, with a great reader.
I recommend it, especially for parents of teenage kids.
"Looked good but looks can be deceiving!"
This book was dull and it looked as if it was going to be so good. Too much detail of the same thing! The narrater is trying to sound like Steven Fry but badly! Its something about nothing really.
"Not very nice people"
A nasty little book about nasty people and not in a good way. Slow, dreary and dull
One of the best books I have read/listened to for a long time Interesting view on middle class life and a neat twist in the tail
"Enjoyable book, great narrator"
Clive Mantle does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life in this audiobook - his reading is lively and he manages to give voice to the female characters without adopting an annoying falsetto.
The book mixes a funny take-down of the pretentions of snooty restaurants with the drama of parents confronted by the dilemma of how to respond to the crimes of their children.
"Dark and disturbing"
The characters in this novel are not there for you to befriend. They are dark, disturbing and unlikeable, yet the pace of the text and the unravelling of their lives is hugely compelling so you have to stick with it. This was hard to listen to at times but impossible to abandon. A mesmerising listen.
"A wonderfully dark modern parable."
I'm a sucker for a good allegory, and Herman Koch serves up a deliciously dark apologue in "The Dinner" with the dysfunctional families at the heart of the tale representing those of us in the privileged West, and how - either through complacency, complicity or actual downright bloodyminded and fully conscious awareness - we'll cross our so called "civilised" moral borders in order to protect our own, and hang onto our entitled lifestyle, should they be threatened.
There's nobody to like here and, wonderfully, the only character who's willing to do what's "right" is the one we universally and instinctively despise: a vain and self-serving politician. We're all in here somewhere, no matter our class, and we're all found guilty. A wonderful and disturbing book that was brilliantly narrated.
"Ho hum, Herman"
I would recommend an abridged version of this audiobook. It is an interesting premise with thoroughly despicable (but eminently entertaining) characters that is hampered by unnecessary prose, such as Paul's Lohman's interminable speculation.
Much of the main protagonist's thoughts did little more than extend the book by as much as 10,000 words. Was there a word limit imposed by the publisher...
No. This is a self-contained story that deals with a series of events. Although the book deals with a hereditary and escalating pattern of behaviour anything further would simply be gratuitous. That said, there may be many readers thirsty for the Lohman's comeuppance.
Worth a listen.
"One dinner covering one whole lifetime"
I enjoyed this book but moreover was intreguied by the many MANY different themes played out in the story. Although it takes place over one dinner it covers a lifetime of guilt, jealousy, hurt, love, trust in one family. The characters are believable and the relationships between them will hit a chord with every reader. A thoroughly good read.
"Enthralling, a rollercoaster of emotions"
I guess this is what is known as black humour. The restaurant scenes took me to the belly laughter stage, but the underlying darkness also kept my wits on edge. I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook and even though it took on a somewhat surreal twist towards the end, it still gripped me. I also thought the narrator did a great job. One of the most enjoyable 'reads' in ages.
"Still bothers me"
It is difficult to write about this performance without spoiling the story. It had me hooked but in an uncomfortable way and that is how it leaves you at the end. The twist - running from the start to the finish - is everything, but yet it is entirely subtle.
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