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
I begin this book with a presupposition; that I would like the main character. You always like the main character , right? But as I invested time into this book, even before the secretes were revealed, I had a strong distaste for Peter. What a self-centered jerk, I found myself yelling.
For that, I applaud the author and narrator. They did such a good job of it, I debated with myself weather or not I wanted to go on listening. I LIKE to like my main characters, to find some redeeming value in them. But the decisions made by these characters, I found absolutely appalling.
So go on... Get immersed in the telling, but have your mouthwash ready to wash the lingering taste from your conscience.
I enjoy a variety of books including mysteries, historical fiction as well as young adult and children's literature. Listening to books gives me the ability to "read" in the car as well as the evening as a nightcap before bed.
This book highlights family relationships during a time of extreme stress as well as how ethics and judgement come into play when crimes have been committed. I have to admit I was somewhat shocked by the reactions of many of the characters and wonder how the decisions they made can be justified . This novel is well written and engaging keeping you guessing until the end.
I got this because it had been billed as a "European Gone Girl." It was not. It was badly written drivel. His supposedly brilliant descriptive passages dragged on and on. The characters (all of them) were completely detestable from the word go. At least with Gone Girl you start out liking the characters and then not liking them and ultimately kind of ambivalent. The author tried desperately to get us to like or at least some of the motivation for some of the things that happen but I never liked any of them.
Seems unlikely. The whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth and not just because of the events in the actual story. I can deal with dramatic horror. This just left me feeling manipulated.
The whole first section in which he goes on ad nauseum about the food, the restaurant and the patrons.
I think the narrator tried to add extra "drama" by slowing down his reading when things were supposed to feel "suspenseful." It was more annoying than effective.
I finished this book because I "paid" for it with one of my credits. But I would suggest saving credits for something more worthwhile.
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?
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.
Excellent performance! Clive Mantle did a fabulous job narrating and was the only reason I listened to the whole book.
I love books and animals.I enjoy all sorts of genres, anything from history to supernatural.
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.
I ended up liking this one a lot more than I thought I would after the first 25-30 pages.
This begins as a clever but almost precious conceit. A man and his wife go to dinner with his brother and sister-in-law. The brother is an influential Dutch politician, and that means they get special attention at the oh-so-pricey and full-of-itself restaurant they choose.
Even that start is strong. Our narrator has a funny judgmental tone, showing up his brother’s pretensions and critiquing the manners of the restaurant manager and others. It’s a quiet beginning, but the peculiar structure – a novel ordered around the stages of a fine meal – makes it intriguing if not compelling.
Then, gradually, the novel turns harrowing. It becomes, not a light send-up of manners, but a demonstration that much of what seems the bedrock certainty of these people’s lives is false or rotten.
At first we learn, against Tolstoy’s famous phrase, that not “all happy families are alike.” Or rather, we learn that these families are decidedly unhappy, and for reasons that run deeper than seems conceivable. [SPOILER ALERT:] Most strikingly, we learn that the two couples’ children are behind a terrible attack on a homeless person and that one of them the attack and has blackmailed the others with posting his recordings on Youtube.
Then, we see a deeper unraveling not just of family but of the self (as we learn of the narrator’s deep personal unhappiness), of the Dutch character (for what the narrator sees as a cultural inability to reflect on anything of real substance), and possibly even of the myth of Western culture itself. Eventually a sleeping fascism creeps into everything, darkening the lightheartedness of the opening into something painful to experience but compelling to read.
That’s a long list of certainties to undo over the course of a single dinner, but somehow Koch makes it happen. As I say, it began interestingly enough, though I wondered how well its particular cultural concerns would translate. As it gains momentum, though, it turns from a light meal into a hell of a lot to chew on. Miraculously, it does all of that without ever quite losing its surface elegance or even its lightness. This is a deeply skilled writer taking on the deepest of questions. So, yes, it does translate very effectively.
Reading allows me to travel through time; to visit the world's unique and stunning places. To become somebody I am not... It is glorious.
This book is excellent: witty, sometimes funny, often unsettling and sometimes ghastly. The 4 dinner companions are each different and surprising and seek to hide their prejudices and animosity. The narration is very good, the plot is intriguing and the characters are twisted.
The book description sounded good. I started listening. Then I had to listen, because I kept thinking, "No". The story would not let me put it down, even though I kept thinking this is droning on and on. I had to know the story. I had to know the ending.
I slogged through this book. I almost didn't finish. GONE GIRL is exceptional. This book is...not.
Maybe it would have been a better read– the narrator was so annoying. Basically a group of awful people have a snooty dinner in a boring restaurant and manage not to directly discuss the horrible reason they are gathered together: their sons have done something heinous. The adults' handling of this despicable act is the crux of this story. It made me feel bad, and sad, and angry in a dull sort of way.
This is a book with literary merit that does not make for a great listen. I liked it better in hindsight.
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