"PEOPLE DIE, BUT BOOKS NEVER DIE."
~ ANONYMOUS ~
Rating: 4.25 Books
Author: Herman Koch
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: 10/2013
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 scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. 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 disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
In The Dinner by Herman Koch, two brothers, Serge and Paul, and their wives made plans to meet for dinner to discuss an issue with their sons. Serge Lohman is a successful politician and is running for Prime Minister, married to his wife Babette and has three children, Rick, Valerie and an adopted son Beau, while Paul Lohman, the narrator, is married to his wife Claire and has one son Michel, is a stay at home dad. Paul and Claire, decide to arrive a half hour late to dinner, hoping Serge and Babette, would be at the restaurant waiting for them, however, they had not arrived yet. Once they arrived, Serge would constantly try to have a serious conversation with everyone at the table but Paul would find ways to change the subject. Immediately Paul starts to discuss the reason he does not like Serge since he finds him to be pompous and selfish and believes Serge tries to show sympathy only to garner votes to become Prime Minister. When Paul finds Serge's behavior outlandish he excuses himself to go to the bathroom, but when he returns, he finds Serge and Babette arguing at the table and Babette excuses herself. At the same time Claire and Babette are away from the table, Serge once again tries to strike up a conversation but Paul diverts his attention when a voter wants to take a picture with Serge. Once again Paul leaves the table and realizes he has his son's telephone and decides to goes through it. While Paul is investigating Michel's phone, Michel calls from home wondering why his father has his phone and is going to get the phone at the restaurant. When Michel goes to the restaurant to retrieve his phone, Paul asks him about the videos on the phone and YouTube. Michel blames his cousin, Beau, for putting the video on YouTube and trying to blackmail both Rick and Michel. The conversation goes from one topic to another but Serge is finally able to bring up the subject that has brought them all to dinner--their son's, Michel and Rick, committed a crime but the police don't know who it is yet and they are being sought after. Serge expresses his concern for Rick because it's affecting him and believes they should go to the police. Everyone else at the table is trying to convince him it was an accident and nothing should be done. Serge is also willing to give up his candidacy for Prime Minister in order to do the right thing for Rick. Paul and Claire decide to do what's necessary to stop Serge from holding a press conference the next day. Ultimately, Serge loses the election and his son, Beau, goes missing. The truth remained with the family.
This is a complicated book. Initially, it took some time getting into the book because it seemed a dry and hard to get through. Even with that said I thought this book was well written. The semi-slow pace adds to the suspense of the book. It had me at the edge of my seat. In the course of reading The Dinner, I started to feel anxious because I got the sense there are things going on in the background but I wasn't sure what they are or what they mean. For example, Paul's character immediately made you dislike Serge and pointed out all the characteristics he wanted you to see - arrogant, sneaky, pompous, and selfish. Nonetheless, as the book progresses you start to get a better picture and understanding of what the dynamic is between the brothers. Paul suffers from a disorder while his brother tries to help him so he doesn't lose control. As you continue to read you know something bad has happened and you start getting antsy trying to figure out what it is--What did the boys do? Why are the parents avoiding the topic? Why is Paul withholding information from Claire? As Koch continues to draw you into the story you find you're at wits end trying to figure out the mystery and when it's finally divulged you're disgusted and appalled. We finally get the gist of why the dinner was put together--their sons committed a crime and the police are looking for them. The boys killed someone and have a history of attacking other people while videotaping the encounters. On top of that, the adults plan to do nothing about it except for Serge, who seemed to be the only one with morals and ethics and concern for Rick. The crime was starting to weigh on Rick's mind, for instance, he was having sleepless nights and his schoolwork was being affected. On the other hand, Michel was behaving as though nothing was out of the ordinary. The only thing that worried him was the news report with the blurry pictures of the crime being committed and Beau threatening to tell the adults what they did. In the meantime, Paul and Claire are trying to convince Serge that it was an accident and they shouldn't tell the police and Babette doesn't want Serge to destroy his chances at becoming Prime Minister. Is it any wonder the teenagers have no moral compass when the people raising them don't have them either.
I found the story line intriguing which is why I chose to read the book. You will find a lot of mixed reviews for this book. Honestly, I thought the book was good even though I gave it a 4.25 rating. It's a slow start/progression and you wonder what is going on but stick with it since the dynamic between the adults makes it for a very interesting read. The Dinner makes you question the things you thought about yourself and the people you love and the things you would do for them.
There are so many things to discuss from this book: Did you like the book? What do you think of the style of writing? How empathetic are as humans? What would you do for your child? Do you have strong morals and ethics? Which character do you identify with? Why do you identify with that character? What do you think of Michel and Rick? Do you think Beau posted the videos on YouTube and is blackmailing his cousin and brother? What do you think happened to Beau? What do you think of the marriages between Serge and Babette and Paul and Claire? Who was manipulating who in the story? Do you think the boys learned their lesson or will they do it again? How would you have handled the situation?
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