I’m not exactly sure where I heard about Herman Koch’s The Dinner, but for some reason it hit my Summer Reading booklist. Tyler got it for me for our anniversary, and I read it within 5 days. This may be one of the most white-collar, psycho books I’ve read, but it sure sucked me in.
The gist of it is that the whole story takes place at a high-brow restaurant in Amsterdam, where two brothers and their wives are meeting in order to discuss their children’s recent behavior. The story delves into the brothers’ past relationship with each other, their families, as well as their professions. Ultimately, the book focuses in on the notion of justice, how it is perceived, and what parents will do in order to protect their children from facing punishment for a crime. Koch delves into the self-centered world of politics and political standing. He also pokes at the issues of parents, family life, and how psychological discontinuity is dealt with in the upper-middle class.
While I finished the book feeling pretty disturbed and shocked, Koch serves an exquisitely written narrative. He gives just enough detail and information for the reader to quasi-understand what is going on, but he doesn’t reveal too much. It leaves the reader wanting to know more and more, and so they read all of the gory details and scandalous facts, each moment being more horrified that they are still reading the book and more intrigued as to what ends up happening. It’s quite well done.
Koch leaves the reader wanting to know more that in fact, it wasn’t until page 138 that I started to really get a feel for the narrator and his potential unreliability. Typically, you’re supposed to relate to a narrator and cheer for him. In this case, you like him enough (hey, he’s opposed to misogynistic views of women and seems to have a good relationship with his wife) and yet you have this feeling, which is confirmed a bit later, that he’s not quite as mentally stable in the way you hope a narrator would be. Actually, he’s a bit nuts, and his struggles play with the reader’s mental state. If he’s crazy, but you still somewhat like him, doesn’t that make you a bit crazy, too?
If you’re not into content that kind of makes your skin crawl and leaves you feeling as though you witnessed a crime you should report, I wouldn’t read it. There is also quite a bit of language and racism directed towards Jews. I know, you’re thinking, ‘Really? The Jews?’ Yes. The Jews. They never catch a break.
I’m not sure if it’s the kind of novel I would re-read, but it sure held my attention for a while.