In a restaurant in the Netherlands, two couples meet for dinner. What appears to be an innocent meeting between friends has deep and dark undertones. The men are brothers, one a prominent politician in the running to be the next Prime Minister, the other a former teacher. The couples have gathered to discuss an incident involving their teenage sons. The boys are in trouble and the couples have very different ideas of how to handle the fallout. The Dinner by Herman Koch is a suspenseful novel about human behaviour and the lengths to which people will go to protect their families.
This is a novel of which I need to say very little for the purpose of not ruining what is an incredible reading experience. The story of the trouble the boys are in and what each parent chooses to do about it unfolds over the course of the evening. As the two couples sit down to dinner, the character of Paul shares the story, bit by bit, painting the picture of how they all got to this point and building up the suspense in a skillful way. To give you much more information than this would not allow you the wonder of discovering it yourself. The shock of what has occurred and, more importantly, the decisions made in the aftermath is what sticks with you long after you close the book.
What impressed me so much in this book was the theme of how quickly people change. The change between liking someone and having a serious dislike of them (or vice versa) can be so quick. On the surface, someone can be one thing and very quickly you realize that they're nothing like you thought they were.
The Dinner is a novel that will have you wondering what exactly we have to come as a society. The incident isn't the only thing in this novel that will have you horrified, the reactions are just as bad. You will definitely ask yourself "what if this were my child?"
This is a book that you'll want to be reading at the same time as someone else so you can talk with them about it the moment you put it down. What seems to be a simple premise, a simple dinner becomes much, much more.
How do you talk about a novel when you can't talk about what happened? Why you use GIF's of course! Check out Retreat by Random House's reaction to the book here.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are purely my own.