The Dinner [NOOK Book]

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.

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 ...

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The Dinner

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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.

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

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
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 GirlThe 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.” 
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 (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.”
Kirkus

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.”
Evening Standard

“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)

Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385346849
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 3,589
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Herman Koch

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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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.
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Reading Group Guide

1. How did your opinion of Paul and Serge shift throughout the novel? How might the story line have unfolded if it had been told from a mother’s point of view?

2. In what way do the courses of a meal—from aperitif to digestif—echo the experience of savoring a suspenseful novel? As the waiter described each delicacy in The Dinner, did the food appeal to you, or did you share Paul’s belief that it was pretentious?

3. What do you think of the sympathy Paul and Claire feel for their son? As a parent, how far would you go to defend your child?

4. Do Michel and Rick represent the indifference of their generation, or are teenagers more socially conscious in the Information Age?

5. How much influence do Claire and Babette have over their husbands? How do they define good mothering?

6. The novel opens with Paul’s commentary on how much Serge irritates him. What accounts for their attitude toward each other? Does Paul’s animosity run deeper than typical sibling rivalry?

7. Discuss Paul’s and Serge’s career paths. What does it take to succeed in politics compared with succeeding in the classroom? What skills do the Lohman brothers share?

8. Ultimately, who is to blame for the homeless woman’s death? What does the novel indicate about the responsibilities (or irresponsibility) of the upper class? What separates sympathetic souls from heartless ones?

9. Discuss the portrait of a marriage that Paul paints as he recalls Claire’s illness and confronts the possibility of losing his family. Why is Claire so protective of Paul? What keeps their relationship going?

10. In chapter 30, we see the details of Paul’s approach to history and humanity. As you watched him lose his teaching job, did you perceive him as someone who is ill or simply selfish? Or rational?

11. What does the story of cousins Michel and Rick say about nature versus nurture? How do you think Beau/Faso sees his adoptive family? What have they taught him about getting ahead?

12. How did you react to Claire and Michel’s “solution”?

13. What commentary does the novel offer about the author’s homeland? What aspects of The Dinner would change if it were set in Washington, DC, rather than in the Netherlands?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 209 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(46)

4 Star

(45)

3 Star

(45)

2 Star

(34)

1 Star

(39)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 209 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    This book was horrible, but I couldn't put it down. I felt like

    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.

    15 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 18, 2013

    I found this book to be a compelling page-turner, beautifully wr

    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.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    This had to be one of the most boring books I have read in a lon

    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 !

    11 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013

    Scary  internal view of parenting.......

    Scary  internal view of parenting.......

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2013

    The characters appear normal and end up, without giving away th

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    One of best books for 2013, this one is a number 1 in the catego

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Very Entertaining

    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?

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    Best book I have read this year

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    Don't be fooled by the synopsis!

    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!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2013

    Unimpressed

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2013

    Had difficulty putting this book down as I wanted to know the ou

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    Wow. Wooooow. This book is ridiuclously well-written. Intense

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    would not recommend

    I would not recommend this book to anyone.

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2013

    I cannot believe this book ever received any positive reviews. I

    I cannot believe this book ever received any positive reviews. I had such high hopes, but it was actually painful to read. I absolutely hated this book. And I only got to pg. 54. Nothing nothing nothing happened in those 54 pages. The summary of The Dinner sounds like it will be a thrilling page turner. Don't be fooled. The 53 pages I read were torture.
    If your looking for a good read, check out my reading blog Black Bifocals

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    For the intelligent reader who appreciates subtleties.... A grea

    For the intelligent reader who appreciates subtleties....
    A great psychological thriller, wonderful writing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2013

    Conjectures - Hilarious

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Fabuless

    This book semes populer

    2 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2013

    This book is so ordinary and then so upsetting at the same time.

    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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    This is a great story about a family facing a life changing prob

    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    I thought the framing/structure was sophisticated and novel, and

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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