The Dinner
by Herman Koch and Sam Garrett

Overview - "A European" Gone Girl."" --"The Wall Street Journal
An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives -- all over the course of one meal.

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More About The Dinner by Herman Koch; Sam Garrett
"A European" Gone Girl."" --"The Wall Street Journal
An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives -- all over the course of one meal.
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.
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. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, "The Dinner" promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

  • ISBN-13: 9780770437855
  • ISBN-10: 0770437850
  • Publisher: Hogarth
  • Publish Date: February 2013
  • Page Count: 292

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Psychological

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-11-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

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.)

BookPage Reviews

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.

BAM Customer Reviews