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The Dinner: A Novel | [Herman Koch, Sam Garrett (translator)]

The Dinner: A Novel

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. 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 the 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 15-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.
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Publisher's Summary

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. 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 the 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 15-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. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

©2009 Herman Koch; Translation © 2012 by Sam Garrett (P)2013 AudioGO

What Members Say

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3.6 (1172 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Laura Fields Charlotte, NC 04-07-13
    Laura Fields Charlotte, NC 04-07-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unable to keep traction"
    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    The story started out so great, with great foreshadowing; however, around the halfway point it got rather tedious and I found it really hard to care about what was being foreshadowed. The ending was okay, but the payoff I was hoping for was just not there.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 04-07-13
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 04-07-13 Member Since 2012
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    "One helluva meal!"

    I had heard about this book but was a little hesitant since it was translated from another language; I wondered if anything would be "lost in translation". Not at all. It's a different, (and a bit disturbing) look at just how far parents will go these days to protect their children. The book rambles a bit in the middle, but overall it is well written. And Clive Mantle NAILS it as the narrator - he is a 10!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vanessa D 03-29-13
    Vanessa D 03-29-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not Gone Girl"
    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The narrator was fabulous, loved his voice and could have listened to him for days, in fact, because of his voice I listened longer that I would normally.


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria KAPOLEI, HI, United States 03-19-13
    Maria KAPOLEI, HI, United States 03-19-13
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    "Disappointed"
    Would you try another book from Herman Koch and Sam Garrett (translator) and/or Clive Mantle?

    Probably not.


    Has The Dinner turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, just this particular author.


    What three words best describe Clive Mantle’s performance?

    His narration was pretty good.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I kept waiting for something more revealing.


    Any additional comments?

    I heard an interview with this author on NPR. It sounded interesting as the host did not want to divulge too much and ruin the book. Throughout the book it felt like it was building to some sort of twist or something interesting...and it never really got there.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 04-19-14
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 04-19-14 Member Since 2010

    SamanthaG

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    "A very strange book"

    When I began listening, the book was hilarious. Lots of sarcastic put-downs of pretentious people and a restaurant. I thought I was in for a funny ride. But the book does turn dark...very dark. We discover things about the characters that we didn't suspect. Many things. Getting pertinent information out of the main character and narrator is like pulling teeth - very frustrating but effective. He tells us many times of things he thought of saying in a particular situation....but then he didn't say them. We gradually learn many very relevant tidbits that we wouldn't have suspected that add to the development of the story. An interesting read, but I which Koch had stuck to funny.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer East Hartford, CT, United States 02-28-14
    Amazon Customer East Hartford, CT, United States 02-28-14 Member Since 2012

    I don't know about you, but why are there so so so many 5 star reviews. I LOVE books, but so few are 5 star.

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    "frighteningly perverse"

    Turned around from page one, I couldn't stop listening and felt ashamed when I was done like I just watched some trashy reality tv show. Hard to explain but I loved this book, it is an acurate picture of parents today.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    EJJ 01-31-14
    EJJ 01-31-14

    European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stunning and Surprising"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The subtle shifts in this book drew me in, entirely.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Dinner?

    When I began to realize that things were not as they seemed.


    If you could take any character from The Dinner out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    None--I would not want to be near any of these people.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Abby 01-16-14
    Abby 01-16-14

    New to audible but love the convenience of listening to books while doing mundane household tasks. Mother of 3 whose nest is 2/3 empty as the grown children move on to bigger and better things.

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    "Deception at its finest."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would prefer to see people doing "the right thing" so I would have liked to have seen one of the mothers try to get their sons to do the right thing rather than helping them to avoid getting caught.


    If you’ve listened to books by Herman Koch and Sam Garrett (translator) before, how does this one compare?

    Haven't heard another one.


    What does Clive Mantle bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He did a very good job with intonations whether suggesting sarcasm or showing disdain for "Serge". I think this definitely added to the listen over reading it yourself.


    Do you think The Dinner needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No, not really. Not sure where you would go from there. So much dysfunction; so little story.


    Any additional comments?

    It wasn't a "feel good" book and so much was implausible. While I totally understand the parental protectiveness I think very few people would "cross the line" like that even for their child. Most would feel that trying to help their child become a better person would trump helping them get away with something even if that means jail and rehabilitation. I also really didn't like the unrealistic, imaginary "mental disease" that was portrayed as something you could detect with amniocentesis. I don't think this was very scientifically plausible and sort of made the author look as though they hadn't done any research on this type of thing.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lisa San Francisco, CA, United States 12-13-13
    lisa San Francisco, CA, United States 12-13-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Why even write this?"
    What disappointed you about The Dinner?

    The underlying message here was just too depressing and demoralizing. There was *nothing* redeeming about this story. Ugh. I have no idea what the hype is all about... why even spend the time writing such a tale?


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Don't know yet... I do appreciate dark stories and the like, but this was just too much. There is absolutely no up-side to this story.


    What about Clive Mantle’s performance did you like?

    Excellent performance! Clive Mantle did a fabulous job narrating and was the only reason I listened to the whole book.


    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell 12-07-13
    Russell 12-07-13 Member Since 2008

    I love books and animals.I enjoy all sorts of genres, anything from history to supernatural.

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    "Interesting concept, yet a miss for me"

    This was an interesting book, however a few things held it back in my opinion.

    The best aspect:
    -I enjoyed the unreliable narrator, this gave the first person point-of-view credibility. This also gave the main character Paul, credibility.
    -The author does a good job of giving the reader details of the world and it's characters. The character fixates on details that create interesting scenes in our imaginations.
    -The narrator did a great job reading this book. I enjoyed his voices, accent, and inflections.

    The worst aspect:
    -We slowly see this family unravel, too slowly. The entire book literally takes place during one dinner. There are flashback to feed us information, but the constraint of one evening is tedious.
    -A little confusing. Even though the entire book is essentially this one evening, I found myself lost in the timeline with all the flashbacks.

    Overall, if you want to try something different, read this. It is an interesting book, there are great descriptions and dialogue. However, if you are like me, you might find yourself annoyed with the tedious aspect of spending nearly nine hours with this family during this meal. Although, I think the author did this intentionally to create restlessness in the reader so we understand the main characters feelings.

    I have seen many reviews comparing this to Gillian Flynn's work of Gone Girl, I do not see it. The pacing and development of Gone Girl was much faster and interesting than this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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