The Dinnerby Herman Koch
"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/b>/i>/i>… See more details below
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"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 scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. 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.
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.
Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content
A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013
An ALA Notable Book of the Year
New York Times Bestseller
• USA Today Bestseller
• Los Angeles Times Bestseller
“A European Gone Girl…The Dinner, a sly psychological thriller that hinges on a horrific crime and its consequences for two families, has become one of spring’s most anticipated suspense novels.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[Koch] has created a clever, dark confection… absorbing and highly readable.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Tongue-in-cheek page-turner.” —The Washington Post
“The best part about The Dinner was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn't get up from the table.” —Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR
“Poised to shake up American publishing…Koch tells a story that could very well take away your appetite.” —USA Today.com
“[A] deliciously Mr. Ripley-esque drama.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“You’ll eat it up, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Koch’s ability to toy with the reader’s alliances while using one family’s distress to consider greater societal ills gives the novel a vital punch.” —Daily Beast
“Every detail…manage[s] to catch our attention when Herman Koch uses them to develop his curious characters and bring us into the dark and thought-provoking plot.” —Seattle Post Intelligencer
“A tart main course that explores how quickly the facade of civility can crumble. It's hard to digest at times, but with a thought-provoking taste that lingers.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The novel has been called the Gone Girl of the Continent, and not without cause: Like Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, it’s a tale told by an unreliable narrator, full of twists and skillfully executed revelations, ultimately registering as a black parable about the deceptively civilized surface of cosmopolitan, middle-class lives…What Koch achieves with his prose—plain but undergirded by breathtaking angles, like a beautiful face scrubbed free of makeup — is a brilliantly engineered and (for the thoughtful reader) chastening mindfuck. The novel is designed to make you think twice, then thrice, not only about what goes on within its pages, but also the next time indignation rises up, pure and fiery, in your own heart.” —Salon.com
“Briskly paced and full of ingenious twists—a compulsive read…for those who can tolerate the unsavory company, The Dinner is a treat they’ll gulp down in one sitting.”
—Dallas Morning News
“The Dinner begins with drinks and dark satire, and goes stealthily and hauntingly from there. It's chilling, nasty, smart, shocking and unputdownable. Read the novel in one big gulp, and then make plans with friends—you’ll be desperate to debate this book over cocktails, appetizers, entrees, dessert…and then you still won't be done talking about it.” —Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
“Funny, provocative and exceedingly dark, this is a brilliantly addictive novel that wraps its hands around your throat on page one and doesn’t let go.” —SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
“Herman Koch has written a sneakily disturbing novel. He lures us into his story with his unfailingly reasonable tone (just acidic enough to be entertaining), and before we know it we've found ourselves in places we never would've consented to go. The Dinner is a smart, amiably misanthropic book, and it's tremendous fun to read.” —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“The Dinner is a riveting, compelling and a deliciously uncomfortable read. Like all great satire it is both lacerating and so very funny... Intelligent and complex, this novel is both a punch to the guts and also a tonic. It clears the air. A wonderful book.”
—Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap
“What a tremendous book. I loved every single gripping and strange thing about it.”
—MJ Hyland, author of Carry Me Down
“By the end of The Dinner you'll have to rethink everything, including who you are and what you believe. This is a book you won't forget.” —David Vann, author of Dirt
“Mesmerizing and disturbing… fast-paced and addictive…The Dinner, already a bestseller in Europe, is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.”
“This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners…before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller…With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life…this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness…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…a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances.”
International Praise for The Dinner
“The perfect undemanding, credible, terrifying beach read.” —Financial Times
‘‘[The Dinner] proves how powerful fiction can be in illuminating the modern world...The reader does not rise from his table happy and replete so much as stand up suddenly, pale and reeling. Bored with Fifty Shades of Grey and all that brouhaha? Read The Dinner—and taste the shock.” —The Economist
“I’m confidently predicting that The Dinner will become this summer’s literary talk of the town—and the Twittersphere—here in the UK, as it already is in Continental Europe, where the novel has sold more than a million copies. Order yours now.”
“Shivers kept shooting up my backbone as I became engrossed in Koch’s darkly disturbing tale of family life. . .As the dinner disintegrates into mayhem, we discover just how far the middle classes will go to protect their monstrous offspring.” —Daily Mail
“Rather like The Slap it is set to become a contentious must-read. It may thrill, chill or cheat, but it is undeniably riveting.” —The Independent
“This tense and thought-provoking family drama is set to become a major literary talking point as it asks the question: Just how far would you go to protect your family?” —The Bookseller
“Hugely accomplished and surprisingly subtle.” —Readers Digest (UK)
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Read an Excerpt
As the restaurant is only a few streets from our house, we walked. That led us past the bar where I hadn’t wanted to meet Serge. I had wrapped my arm around my wife’s waist, her hand was somewhere under my coat. Shining on the façade of the bar was the warm, red-and-white neon sign advertising the brand of beer they served inside. “We’re too early,” I said. “Or more precisely, if we go now, we’re going to be right on time.”
My wife – I should stop saying that. She’s called Claire. Her parents had named her Marie Claire, but later Claire didn’t like having exactly the same name as a magazine. Sometimes I call her Marie to tease her. But I hardly ever call her my wife – now and then when speaking officially, in sentences like “My wife can’t come to the telephone at the moment,” or “My wife really was sure that she had booked a room with a sea view.”
On evenings like this Claire and I cherish the moments in which we are alone together. They make us feel as if nothing is fixed, as if even the dinner appointment is a mistake and we’re just out with the two of us. If I had to give a definition of happiness, it would be this: happiness is sufficient to itself, it doesn’t need any witnesses. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” according to the first sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The only thing I feel compelled to add is that the unhappy families – and within those families, the unhappy couples most of all – can never manage alone. The more witnesses, the better. Unhappiness is always in search of company.
What People are saying about this
“Mesmerizing and disturbing… fast-paced and addictive…The Dinner, already a bestseller in Europe, is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.” – Book Page
“This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners…before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller…With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life…this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again.” – Publishers Weekly
“A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness…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…a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances.” - Kirkus
“The Dinner begins with drinks and dark satire, and goes stealthily and hauntingly from there. It's chilling, nasty, smart, shocking and unputdownable. Read the novel in one big gulp, and then make plans with friends—you’ll be desperate to debate this book over cocktails, appetizers, entrees, dessert…and then you still won't be done talking about it.” – Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
‘‘[The Dinner] proves how powerful fiction can be in illuminating the modern world...The reader does not rise from his table happy and replete so much as stand up suddenly, pale and reeling. Bored with Fifty Shades of Grey and all that brouhaha? Read The Dinner—and taste the shock.” – The Economist
“Funny, provocative and exceedingly dark, this is a brilliantly addictive novel that wraps its hands around your throat on page one and doesn’t let go.” – SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
“Herman Koch has written a sneakily disturbing novel. He lures us into his story with his unfailingly reasonable tone (just acidic enough to be entertaining), and before we know it we've found ourselves in places we never would've consented to go. The Dinner is a smart, amiably misanthropic book, and it's tremendous fun to read.” – Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“The Dinner is a riveting, compelling and a deliciously uncomfortable read. Like all great satire it is both lacerating and so very funny... Intelligent and complex, this novel is both a punch to the guts and also a tonic. It clears the air. A wonderful book.” – Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap
“What a tremendous book. I loved every single gripping and strange thing about it.” – MJ Hyland, author of Carry Me Down
“By the end of The Dinner you'll have to rethink everything, including who you are and what you believe. This is a book you won't forget.” – David Vann, author of Dirt
Meet the Author
HERMAN KOCH is the author of seven novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in twenty-five countries, and was the winner of the Publieksprijs Prize in 2009. He currently lives in Amsterdam.
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I found this book to be a compelling page-turner, beautifully written. I found it interesting that nearly all of the characters were horrible, self-serving, and unlikable - most stories feature a "good guy" or hero to serve as foil to the villan. I think this is the best book I have read in a long time, much better even than the highly accaimed "Gone Girl" which is currently on the best-seller list.
This book was horrible, but I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was waiting for more to happen, but the writer "hid" everything that would have made this book more interesting. In the end, I felt like reading this book was a complete waste of time. There was so much potential too, but everything felt under developed. There were too many "fillers" with the overly done descriptions of Paul's surroundings, to the point where it started to get annoying. I wouldn't recommend this book, but you don't have to take my word for it.
The characters appear normal and end up, without giving away the ending, totally bizarre and dysfunctional. The narrator/father Paul initially appears as a common, well-adjusted middle class parent. would love to ask the author if he intentionally presented Paur as unfeeling, cruel, cold, violent facist who feels some persons do not deserve to live because they are weak, poor, a burden to society. Paul himself is diagnosed as mentally ill. Was he commenting on contemporary society? There is just a lot going on including family ties, genetics, societial values. I didn't see it as just a book about families and protecting children. I read this book in several days and didn't want to put it down. A very enjoyable, edgy book. The dinner setting for most of the book was interesting.
One of best books for 2013, this one is a number 1 in the category "You can run, but you can't hide". Think of it as 'Fight Club' but then in an Amsterdam restaurant. To be read on a nice & quiet beach.
This had to be one of the most boring books I have read in a long time. There wasn't one character that endeared themselves to me, all of them IMHO were boorish, self serving, dull and egotistical. The only one who almost redeemed himself was Serg but in the end was no better than the rest. I could have put up with the characters if the writing had not been dull as well. If I had purchased the book instead of the nook version, I would have returned it to Barnes & Noble after the 1st couple of chapters. I don't remember ever having given any book I read less than 3 stars but if I available I would have given this one a negative !
Wow. Wooooow. This book is ridiuclously well-written. Intense, rich, suspense spun continually throughout..I couldn't put it down. The content will make you shake your head a few times, and reconsider leaving the house. The beauty is in (Spolier Alert) the duality of a couple that seems so normal...at first. Wowza. Paul's brutal self-awareness and keen observation is really the key to the story. Just a scathing story.
I don't want to give too much away. But, if you liked We Need To Talk About Kevin, then you will enjoy this emotionally stirring read.
It was so-so. Doesn't live up to the hype though. And not sure why people would even mention "the Dinner" and "Gone Girl" in the same sentence. No comparison, as the latter is a dark masterpiece.
I wish i never bought this e-book! I kept reading, hoping it would get better. It never did! Aming othet things the author would start describing somethhing, then say "I won't tell you this or that". If you don't wajt to tell us details, don't write a book! Annoying to say the least!
Had difficulty putting this book down as I wanted to know the outcome. I imagine there are more parents than we know dealing with the less than pleasant behavior of the child which has then been shared with the world on social media. This book gives one view of how a child's inappropriate behavior can have a impact on an entire family. Certainly there are some lessons to be learned in this day of modern technology aw well as demonstrating how a child's behavior and moral compass can be a reflection of that which is seen in the parent.
For the intelligent reader who appreciates subtleties.... A great psychological thriller, wonderful writing.
The premise is enticing. How far would you go to save your child? I found the beginning quite amusing. Paul's conjectures about the people he sees are hilarious. His observations of the restaurant manager and that darn pinky made me laugh a lot. I liked his detailed descriptions of the food, felt like you were there in the restaurant with him. As the story progresses, it gets dark and serious. Suspenseful as you dont know whats going to happen! I enjoyed this book.
I bought this book after reading the premise, solve a mystery while sitting down for one 4 course dinner in a prestigious restaurant. Sounded like an interesting twist on a mystery. I was disappointed in the overall execution. The underlying story is good, but I felt the round about way the author got there was tedious. Paul Lohman is the character that narrates the story, he is a man who hates everything and at times I wanted to say 'quit whining and get on with it'.
I had a blast reading this book. It gave an insight to a life style and raised questions to serious isses. What would you have done?
This book is so ordinary and then so upsetting at the same time. magnificent writing. i'm physically sick after reading it, but that is a good thing! very powerful
I read this book but only finished it because, when I have the time I try to finish no matter how bad it is ... and this was bad ... i kept hoping, searching for something that would redeem the characters - any of them but in the end it didn't happen ... the whole premise of this "dinner" was fairly idiotic and unimaginable .. add on top of that the despicable personalities of the characters - and not in a good, interesting way, just made this book a HUGE disappointment and waste of time
This book was a bit slow throughout and was hard to follow at times.
This is a great story about a family facing a life changing problem. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner to discuss the problem and how they will handle it. During the evening we get a look at the back story. The sibling riverly and the other issues that have come up with the families in the past. I have to admit for me it was a little slow and I really had to be in the mood to get into it, but it was well worth it!! Parts of the explanaition at the time seemed to drag on and was meaningless, but in the end it was all needed to fully understand the decision the adults make and the actions of their children. "Secrets didn't get in the way of happiness." This one line from the book really made me think. Can secrets get in the way of happiness in a family? SBMorales
I thought the framing/structure was sophisticated and novel, and the characterization believable, and the prose well-written. However, I didn't find it that suspenseful (do not be fooled by reviews referring to this as the "European Gone Girl"... it was similar to Defending Jacob in theme and plot (although Defending Jacob was better). I did not really like the book... this must be a new literary trend of using a completely unreliable narrator and making all the characters un-likable, as most books we have read lately in my book club reflect that practice! I loved Gone Girl by the way, which when I read a review of The Dinner saying it was similar to that, was what made me want to read this.
I haven't had this much trouble finishing a book in a long time. Every time I thought I couldn't take it any more, the author would thow me just enough info to get me to keep reading. Yes, the book is very thought-provoking; however, it moves very slowly. I kept wanting to scream "Just Get To The Point!!" The story line begs the question of how far would you go to protect your child. It is a hot topic, but there seemed to be no one in the story with any redeemable qualities. I disliked all of the characters (right down to the awful waiter with the horrible pointing pinky finger). The only person that wanted to do the right thing wanted to do it for all the wrong reasons. I definitely hated the ending, for no one got what they deserved. I also found it very hippocritical that what the main character felt about people and justice was excused for his son. Again, no one had any redeemable qualities in this book. As for the issue of mentally ill people? Being mentally ill does not give anyone the right to behave in this way and when they do, the worst harm you could do as a parent is to completely ignore bad behavior. So, not the best read ever. It does give you something to think about. However, it did drag quite a bit. I am not sorry I paid for it, or read it; but I don't think I will be looking for anything else by this author. This one kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. -- SPeeD
It is an interesting concept to have the story focused around one evening's dinner. The story line wasn't what I had expected, but ok.
Interesting book that feel flat at the end. Like many other readers I kept waiting for something big to happen but was never satisfied.
Before I started reading I knew absolutely nothing about the book The Dinner by Herman Koch . I did not read a single review...I did not do any google research that I typically do. I went in completely blind...cause I like to live on the edge?? Maybe...nah, I just wanted to take a chance on it without any outside influence. Am I glad that I did??...well duh, here's the review: For one, can I just say I loved the cover. Great cover...so fitting to the story...very symbolic!! This is a totally uncomfortable book and I say that in a good way. How so you wonder??.. I just believe that Herman Koch's intentions are to make us uncomfortable as we read every single page, every single line, get deep into the lives of the characters in this story, be in the moment, and it delivers. So we start off with the narrator of the story, Paul Lohman...Mr. Curmudgeon, I get that from the start. He goes on with the entire story in a complaining state...entitled..slightly annoyed...bitter that he has a successful brother..resentful of his brother's success at career, marriage, and life in general...Serg Lohman, whose status and money affords him the ability to get into some of the most exclusive eateries. Waiting lists 6 months in advance??...what's that for Serg Lohman!! There is a dinner that is to take place between the not so successful Paul and his wife Claire...to meet with Serg Lohman and his beautiful and just as fabulous wife Babette. Chapter upon chapter we get the bitter Paul feeling oh so injusticed by Serg's success. It had me laughing a little and almost relating...even if it is an absolutely disgusting thing to admit. There is another story within that story and that's where it gets even more crazier..even more distorted...even more sickening. A revolting crime that involves his son Michel and Serg's two sons...but more than that it is how Paul describes the whole thing...his take on this very seriously perterbing matter. We are expected to hate the very 'pompous' Serg if Paul could have his way about things but our opinions, at least mine, makes me think much deeper into Paul's resentments and what that tells about him as a person. The thing I loved about this story is that we are taken through a fancy schmancy dinner in a very fine restaurant between 4 very different very dysfunctional people..all the elaborate and exquisite courses...and through each of these food adventures and Paul's narrative another cryptic story is unfolding. The way it is done is unique and amazing and I could not get enough. It reads very slow but I don't mean that in a negative way....highly suspenseful to the point of almost irritating....I LOVED it. It's one of those books that you just can't put down...you think each page is gonna give you something you need to know...but no...you have to wait for one other page..and one other page more....gripping and addictive!! And as you go along you know you are waist deep in something quite disturbing. It reminds me very much like The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. It gives me that exact same perverted feel. A gruesome car accident that you drive slowly to see if you can catch a glimpse at carnage even though you know you shouldn't. This a disturbing and dysfunctional book and it's wonderful. Well worth the read.
Very well written. Finished it in about 4 days. Could not put down and had to keep reading to see what would happen next!