Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

Posted January 25, 2016 by MC / 1 Comment

Categories: Book Reviews

Review: The Dinner by Herman KochThe Dinner by Herman Koch
Published by Crown/Archetype on February 12th 2013
Pages: 304

"A European Gone Girl." --The Wall Street Journal
An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives -- all over the course of one meal.
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 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. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show 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.
From the Hardcover edition.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I have been thinking about The Dinner since I finished reading it, and I have been struggling to figure out what I wanted to say in my review. Personally, I did not enjoy this book. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that it could have had potential if only a few things had been different. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I just really didn’t like this book and I don’t think anything can change my opinion.

I have been wanting to read The Dinner for years, because, as you can see in the synopsis, it is known as “a European Gone Girl.” Well, I absolutely loved Gone Girl, so I was so excited for another thrilling, suspenseful read. That is not what I found. This book is only about 300 pages long, and at the halfway point, I still had no clue what the actual plot of the story was. The first 150 pages consisted of the narrator recounting random, pointless family anecdotes and complaining about the food at the restaurant where the story takes place. I truly can’t remember anything that happened in those pages that was really relevant to the story in the end.

Then, around the middle of the book, the great plot twist was FINALLY revealed and we learned why the adults were having an important dinner to discuss their sons. My first reaction was, “You made me wait 150 pages for THAT?” I try not to put too much weight on plot points in reviews, because liking or disliking aspects of the plot can be a very personal opinion and can be overlooked for things like character development and writing style. But I felt like I had been waiting so long for this big reveal, and then I was totally let down. I wanted more suspense, more drama, more questions.

I think what bothered me most about this book is how flat the characters were. There is not much I can say about the characters without crossing into spoiler territory, unfortunately. I was expecting a suspenseful book with characters that always kept me guessing, and I found them to be incredibly predictable. This book was originally written in Dutch and then translated into English, so maybe something was lost in translation and I couldn’t see what the author originally intended for his characters. Who knows.

I am really struggling to find the right words to express my feelings about this book. I have read rave reviews about it and so many people laud it as amazing and gripping and unputdownable. But I really didn’t find that to be the case. If you have read it, I would really be interested in hearing your thoughts. This review is shorter than I would like it to be, but I think that is because I still have trouble describing my feelings about this work. I have been trying to wrap my head around this book, and I think it is one I will be struggling with for a while.

2 Stars


When you are confused and disappointed by a book you were excited for…..

…..blame it on the books.