[465]: The Dinner by Herman Koch

DSC_0740GOODREADS SUMMARY | Hogarth | February 12th, 2013 | Hardcover, 304 pages
| Adult Fiction | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars


I wish I’d read Gone Girl before this. Because then I could at least decide if the comparison has  merits. As it is, this book was not what I’d expected for something that was highly praised by the literary community. Which proves  that once again, just because it’s a highly acclaimed book, it doesn’t mean the book is written for me.

Reservation for four.

The entire book happened in one day, most likely in just a few hours. The book is sectioned in parts that correspond with the courses of the meal. And as the meal progresses, bits of pieces about the characters and the plot are revealed. In the core is a story about a couple of brothers in the throes of a sibling rivalry, but they’ll never admit to each other’s jealousy. One is a high ranking official who may just be Netherland’s next Prime Minister, and the other, a teacher on leave due to a breakdown.

They have teens consisting of three boys and one girl. One was adopted from Africa. The epicenter of this book is around these kids, and why the dinner was called to begin with. I’m not going to expand any further, as it would ruin the anticipation of unraveling the threads.

All you need to know is that the slow reveal will either make you salivate or as in my case…

Lose your appetite.

How far would you go to protect your child? At what point does that love turn into madness? If you can answer those questions, then you might have a better chance at understanding these characters better than I did.

You will never meet a more unreliable narrator such as Paul.  He is a psychopath, and I don’t mean that in all the sense of the word. Perhaps, more of a sociopath? He presents a calm and well put together character, but he’s as unpredictable as they come. He beat his son’s principal to a pulp with nary a twitch, and he’s done worst things to others that he thought have done his son wrong. And yet the world sees him as a loving husband and a doting family man.  As a parent, I know the infinite length of  how far I would to go to protect my children. What I don’t know though, is whether I would forsake laws for them.

This is where you’ll start to wonder the relevance of nature versus nurture. And in this case, I think it’s a bit of both.

Over all, I struggled with this book. It didn’t appeal to my maternal instincts, nor did it engage me as a reader. The characters’ actions made sense, but I can’t say I felt any empathy.

You need to have an appreciation for an author’s wiles not to divulge information. At the same time, you need to have patience for some details that you’d normally consider as banal. Such was the root of my struggles with this book. It was stingy with the details that matter, and generous with the things that do not.

  • Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    It’s a shmaame you struggled with this one, sounded promising!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

  • Sorry the book didn’t work for you, Joy. This is the first time I hear about it, but I haven’t still read Gone Girl, too. Hope your next read is better!

  • OH MY GODD. You gave this book 2 stars but all my tick boxes are here – psychopath, comparison to Gone Girl, and FOOD. Agghg what do I do? *visits Goodreads* It does seem very frustrating that critical information is left out, and other details are divulged freely. Curiouser and curiouser! Great review Joy.

  • It sucks when books that are supposed to be good end up not being great :/ I am intrigued about how this story was told though–with the four parts and slow reveal. I think I’d like to read a story told like that but maybe not this story. It doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy.

    Good luck with your next read!

  • I have had that one on my TBR for a while. Not sure if I still want to read it after reading your comments though. It sounds like maybe certain things would drive me crazy.

  • Normally with these strange books that win those awards, it is seen as artistic to describe banal things while leaving critical information to the imagination. That just irritates me! Also, an adopted child from Africa? Sigh, that is becoming seriously over rated and I can say that since I am from Africa! I think I’ll give this book a skip. Thanks for the warning Joy! Love your reviews as always. :]

  • I’ve read so many great reviews about this book, I thought for sure there would be more to the hype. I’m not a big fan of slow reveals. A book needs to capture my interest in the first few chapters or I end up feeling like I’m studying. I spend too much of my time reading text books to waste the opportunity to truly enjoy reading! I’m sorry to hear that this book left you disappointed, though. I do hope your next read is more worth your time lady! Great review as always (:
    Morrighan @ Elysian Fields

  • Aw, sorry to hear that you struggled some and didn’t appeal to your maternal; instinct

  • This doesn’t sound like something for me either. I hadn’t heard of it, or the comparison to Gone Girl, before this. I do really need to read Gone Girl though. And preferably before I see the movie. Thanks for sharing, Joy!

  • This doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy at all either, Joy. Stingy with the details that matter and generous with ones that don’t? I’d be very frustrated. No thanks. Great honest review! 🙂

    • It was really odd, how he described every conceivable details of the dinner, but didn’t share much about things that I thought would be crucial. Perhaps it was intentional?

  • You haven’t been having much luck with books lately, have you? 🙁
    Anyways, this sounded really interesting, but I can see how the characters were hard to connect with emotionally. I think I would probably have the same opinion although I am fascinated by sociopaths in books. They are so hateable.
    Great review, Joy!

    • Sigh. I know. I need to start picking some good reads. This week has been so miserable.

  • Aw, I’m sorry you had issues with this book Joy :\ it is all kinds of depressing to not enjoy a book. Hmph. I don’t think this one is for me either, but it do seem kind of interesting 🙂 Just sorry it wasn’t better. <3 thank you for sharing about it, though 😀

  • Huh. I think I might pick this one up, if only because I’m fascinated by sociopaths. (I know two of them. SUCH unpleasant people.) As always, I loved reading your review. Hope you read a good one soon!

    • I wouldn’t mind reading another opinion. Yours, most especially. 🙂

  • Ugh. So many people have said that about this book that even though I have a copy, I don’t think I will be reading it. I think this might be one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

    • Come to think of it, you might be on to something there, Ali. Perhaps a movie adaptation would be better for sure. 🙂