“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.”
I read and purchased this book and another by Herman Koch on reading a review about one of his other books ‘Summer House with Swimming Pool’. ‘The Dinner’ seemed a very strange book to start with and I was only reading little bits here and there as I couldn’t really get into it. The book starts with two couples (two brothers and their wives) going out for a meal together. From the beginning it is clear that the brothers do not get on and they both live very different lives as one is running for president and the other is a retired teacher.
They meet at a very posh restaurant where the food is intricately named and described by the somewhat annoying waiter. Behind the simple scenario of two couples dining together, Koch started to introduce a backstory with information about events to do with both couples sons that lead to the meeting in the first place. The book turned into a bit of a mystery when the main character Paul (the ex teacher) tried to work out why his son had been acting strangely recently. When he discovers the truth, he realizes that his wife Claire has known all along and that it involves his two nephews which is why his brother asked to meet up. The truth itself was devastating and the 4 of them have to decide how to deal with it – possibly the most important decision of their lives.
Once I got into the book, I liked how the writing was broken up by the many courses of the meal as it was very frustrating to have to wait for the next piece of the real story. This was clever as it meant I shared the same emotion as Paul so I sympathized with him and wanted to read on. It was a complicated story but I’m glad I persevered as I enjoyed the book in the end.
If you like mysteries and slightly sinister tales then this is the book for you. When I started reading, I was worried I had wasted my money buying two Koch books, but now I am looking forward to getting my teeth into the next one!