Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The DInner1 slimGet ready for The Dinner by Herman Koch, a story that brings whole new meaning to the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There for You.”

Picture if you will, an uppity posh restaurant with a six month waiting list to get in, unless of course you are set to be the future prime minister. Then, add four unstable (and that is putting it kindly in my opinion) characters: two brothers (one of whom is the famous politician Serge Lohman) and their wives. Next, imagine an entire story told over the span of a single dinner at the fancy restaurant with the four aforementioned characters. And additionally, consider the purpose of the dinner – to discuss the terrible thing each couple’s sons have done together that could jeopardize their futures in many ways. The result is a uniquely told, often disturbing and downright revolting take on family loyalty and just how far we will go to protect our own.

If you are looking for a hero or a character to look up to and identify with, you will not find it here (or at least I sincerely hope you don’t). Every character in this book was absolutely despicable. That truth is made more evident as the story continues.  They all seemed highly self-centered and slightly sociopathic, completely lacking of empathy and remorse for their actions and the actions of their children. The story ultimately become about more than the simple matter of just protecting one’s children at any cost. It started to seem that Michele’s father (and our narrator) actually felt a sense of superiority over all other people and enjoyed the violence enacted against those “lesser beings.” While I went in thinking that the young boys were the bad ones and the father’s both jerks in their own ways, it becomes clear that the parents, especially Michelle’s parents, are more than a little bit deranged as well. But hey, every family is a little bit crazy in its own way, right?

Honestly, I thought the story was enjoyable, but not great for the majority of the book. And then the end came around and pushed this story up a few notches. It isn’t even like there was some crazy ending; it just become clear what kind of characters we were dealing with, and I loved it. It could be my psychology background, but I appreciated the slow revelation of the twistedness of this family.

If you like a lot of action, this book may not be for you. But if you are looking for drama and a family that will undoubtedly make your own look upstanding and normal, well then, by all means read The Dinner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.