Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Dinner- Herman Koch reviewed

My cousin recommended The Dinner a while back, so I was looking around for it for a while. However, Dutch books are pretty expensive compared to their English counterparts –which I find crazy since I live in the Netherlands yet they keep their own books pricier over other language books-, and I was determined to read the novel in its original Dutch version. Luckily, as I was scouring through boxes of books on the market one day I came across a copy for 2 Euros, and I immediately picked it up. That was already a few months back. I finally got round to reading it. Review and summary after the jump.

A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. 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 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, and as civility and friendship disintegrates, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. 

I’ll be honest and say directly that I haven’t read a Dutch book in quite a while. It may be almost 7 years since last time I read anything non-English. I’m glad I did though. The book reads quite easily and I am positive that the included Dutch colloquialism helps it along. That is not to say however, that I enjoyed the book. Koch is indeed worthy of his praise as a writer; the prose is well-written and the narrative moves along smoothly for the most part. The problem starts with flashbacks. I've read novels where flashbacks seemingly happen and end without causing any disruption to the story. This book is not one of those. Every flashback goes into so much-perhaps frivolous- details and happens at moments during the dinner that are so unexpected, it’s hard to wrap your head around the connection the narrator is trying to make. The narrator himself, is perhaps the worst person ever. While I would never have dinner with any of the four main characters, our narrator is of an irritating, irrational, and downright crazy caliber all on his own. I took solace in that his holier-than-thou demeanor is completely shattered by the end of the novel- though perhaps not to him-. Everyone has those people they dread going to dinner with. Well, let me tell you, these people are the worst. However, looking at it as an outsider, give an intriguing point of view. I understand the appeal of the novel, but some of the style and the characters just didn't do it for me.

You can buy The Dinner here

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