Reviews for Dinner


Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
Already a runaway hit throughout Europe, boasting more than a million copies sold, Koch's sixth novel arrives stateside, giving readers here a chance to mull over some rather meaty moral quandaries. But not so fast. First, Koch has a few false paths to lead us down. The story starts off casually and unassumingly with a dinner between two brothers, one running for prime minister of the Netherlands, along with their wives at one of Amsterdam's finest establishments. The other brother, as narrator, sharply ridicules every absurd element of the night to great effect. But just as everything settles in, Koch pivots, and these pointed laughs quickly turn to discussion about their teenage boys and something they've done. And it's at this point when readers will feel two distinct ideologies forming and will face the novel's vital question: which position to side with? Koch's organic style makes for a continuously engaging read that, if anything, leaves readers wanting more. Another 100 pages or so exploring these issues further would have been more than welcome, but what is here will no doubt stir some heady debates. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 February
Over the course of an evening

Herman Koch’s mesmerizing and disturbing novel starts out slowly, as two couples meet for dinner at a pricey, somewhat snobbish restaurant in Amsterdam. The two men are brothers: Serge, in the midst of a campaign to become the prime minister of the Netherlands, and Paul, a high school teacher. Paul and his wife Claire arrive first, as usual, for as Paul well knows, Serge “never arrived on time anywhere,” preferring to make a grand entrance.

Paul’s aversion to this whole evening planned by Serge and his wife Babette escalates with the arrival of each skimpy yet ridiculously overpriced course. From the “Greek olives from the Peloponnese, lightly dressed in first-pressing, extra-virgin olive oil from Sardinia,” to the tiny 19-euro appetizer lost in the “vast emptiness” of Claire’s plate, to the miniscule portions of guinea fowl accompanied by a mere shred of lettuce, Paul becomes increasingly fascinated with the “yawning chasm between the dish itself and the price you have to pay for it.”

At this point, the reader assumes that The Dinner will remain what it seems on the surface to be—a subtle, yet piercing, skewering of the haughty, conceited, upper-class brother by his intellectually superior, middle-class sibling. But as the main courses arrive, the reason for the arranged dinner becomes clear: The four of them must deal with the shocking actions taken by their 15-year-old sons against a homeless person. The reader is drawn into their dispute, forced to think about what he or she would do in a similar situation. How hard is it to admit our children’s failings—and how far are we willing to go to protect them?

Koch’s fast-paced, addictive novel raises these questions and more. Readers will be able to identify with the faults and fears of each of his perceptively drawn characters. Already a bestseller in Europe, The Dinner is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #1
A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness. Paul, the narrator of this caustic tale, initially appears to be an accomplished man who's just slightly eccentric and prone to condescension: As he and his wife prepare for a pricey dinner with his brother and sister-in-law, he rhetorically rolls his eyes at wait staff, pop culture and especially his brother, a rising star in the Dutch political world. The mood is mysteriously tense in the opening chapters, as the foursome talk around each other, and Paul's contempt expands. The source of the anxiety soon becomes evident: Paul's teenage son, along with Paul's brother's children, was involved in a violent incident, and though the videos circulating on TV and YouTube are grainy, there's a high risk they'll be identified. The formality of the meal is undone by the parents' desperate effort to keep a lid on the potential scandal: Sections are primly titled "Aperitif," "Appetizer" and so on, but Koch deliberately sends the narrative off-menu as it becomes clear that Paul's anxiety is more than just a modest personality tic, and the foursome's high-toned concerns about justice and egalitarianism collapse into unseemly self-interest. The novel can be ineffectually on the nose when it comes to discussions of white guilt and class, the brothers' wives are thin characters, and scenes meant to underscore Paul's madness have an unrealistic vibe that show Koch isn't averse to a gratuitous, melodramatic shock or two. Even so, Koch's slow revelation of the central crisis is expertly paced, and he's opened up a serious question of what parents owe their children, and how much of their character is passed on to them. At its best, a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 September #2
An international best seller as winner of the Publieksprijs prize, this book features two couples at a posh restaurant in Amsterdam chatting politely before finally addressing the real issue: their teenage sons have been caught on film in a gruesome criminal act that has shaken the nation. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 January #1

Originally published in 2009, this best-selling Dutch novel is now available in English so the world can indulge in the dark comedy of award-winning author Koch (Save Us, Maria Montanelli). At an upscale restaurant in the Netherlands, two couples have dinner and a much-needed conversation about their sons. Koch employs the narrative frame of a menu (aperitif, appetizer) to slowly unveil how these couples know each other and the rippling effect their children's actions have caused. By the time dessert is served, the reader knows that the two men are brothers, and the narrative takes on Tolstoyan overtones, with each unhappy family unhappy in its own way. In a single setting, Koch successfully deploys multiple narratives of a single event to effectively show that our construction of history, and constant attempts at overdetermining the future, is problematic. VERDICT A shocking, humorous, and entertaining novel that effectively uses a misanthropic narrator in leading us through a fancy dinner, with morally savage undertones. Recommend for fans of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage and Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap. [See Prepub Alert, 8/27/12.]--Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

[Page 81]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #2

This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners in the style of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller. The Lohman brothers, unemployed teacher Paul and politician Serge, a candidate for prime minister, meet at an expensive Amsterdam restaurant, along with their respective spouses, Claire and Babette, to discuss a situation involving their respective 15-year-old sons, Michel and Rick. At first, the two couples discuss such pleasantries as wine and the new Woody Allen film. But during this five-course dinner, from aperitif to digestif, secrets come out that threaten relations between the two families. To say much more would spoil the breathtaking twists and turns of the plot, which slowly strips away layers of civility to expose the primal depths of supposedly model citizens, not to mention one character's past history of mental illness and violence. With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life. Despite a few too-convenient contrivances, this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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