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 think something is lost in translation at the "twist" ending.
I found the characters to be irredeemable. This may be the idea but I didn't care for it. It is difficult to believe that these characters would interact in this way, or go about life the way it is written.
I did not like this book and am still confused about what happened. I'm not sure it it was the book that I didn't like, or the narrator, but either way, I found it drawn out and pointless.
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.
Haunting and incredibly insightful. This was a new twist on the unreliable narrator--and in his telling of the story, and his indefatigable effort to remain "the good guy," his flaws are both subtle and remarkable. This novel is not for the impatient, the thoughtless, or the faint of heart.
Claire. They are hers and she will do what she has to do...
Possibly....with the boys, years later? How did this event affect/change their lives?
It's an interesting subject... What do you do if your child does the unthinkable? Do you protect them? How does the event and how it is handled affect the rest of their lives? Can they live with it?
Probably not simply because it is 8 and a half hours long! Life is too short.
Originality. Plot twists unexpected.
The protagonist, Paul.
That is tough because the Dinner is such a great title for this story. I would not rename it.
If there were an academy awards of narration, this narrator would win an Oscar. He did an amazing job.
A completely different story. Nothing could make this story better. It's a completely vile and disgusting story
I am severly dissapointed that this book was sent to me as a suggestion of something that I might like. This story left me with a feeling of pure disgust.
This was truly the worst audio book ever. I continued to listen because I always finish what I start but it was literally horrible. I don't think I could listen to one more minute of Paul. OMG
Disguised as a clever, witty, commentary about people and attitudes, this description of going to a dinner turns into so much more. Although Dutch, the narrator sounds British, and has the same flare for British humor as treasures like Derek Jacobi. You find yourself amusingly following his mini-tirades aimed at pompous people and restaurants, when you suddenly realize all is not what it appears, and the narrator may not be a humorous reflection of our secret gripes. It caught me totally unaware (at least for the first part), and I usually pick up on those things. The clues are there, the banter, though, is humorous and misleading. A great read and excellent narrator!
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