The Dinner

The Dinner

3.2 233
by Herman Koch
     
 

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
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.
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)

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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780770437855
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/12/2013
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“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
 
“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

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