Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, Rebecca Serle's The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit!
A Bustle Book Club Selection
“I have five words for Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List: wistful, delicious, romantic, magical, love.”
—Gabrielle Zevin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Young Jane Young
“We’ve been waiting for an hour.” That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.”
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, THE DINNER LIST, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.
When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.
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About the Author
Rebecca Serle is an author and television writer who lives between NYC and LA. Serle co-developed the television adaptation of her YA series Famous in Love for Freeform and Warner Brothers Television. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California.
Read an Excerpt
I first saw Tobias at an art exhibit at the Santa Monica Pier. Four years later we exchanged names on the subway stuck underground at Fourteenth Street, and we had our first date crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Our story spanned exactly one decade, right down to the day we ended. But as it's been said before — it's easier to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
I was in college, my sophomore year. I was taking Conrad's philosophy class. Part of the course was a weekly field trip organized by students on a rotating basis. Someone took us to the Hollywood sign, another to an abandoned house on Mulholland designed by a famous architect I had never heard of. I'm not sure what the point was except that Conrad, self-admittedly, liked to get out of the classroom. "This is not where learning takes place," he often said.
For my outing I chose the art exhibit Ashes and Snow. I had heard about it from some friends who had gone the weekend before. Two giant tents were erected on the beach by the Santa Monica Pier, and the artist Gregory Colbert was showing his work — big, beautiful photographic images of human beings living in harmony with wildlife. There had been a giant billboard that sat on Sunset Boulevard the entire year of 2006 — a small child reading to a kneeling elephant.
It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was flying home the next day to Philadelphia to spend the holiday with my mother's extended family. My mom was contemplating a move back East, where she was from. We'd been in California since I was six years old, since right after my father left.
I was flustered. I remember cursing myself that I'd signed up to organize this event when I had so much other stuff going on. I was fighting with Anthony — my on-again, off-again business-major boyfriend, who rarely left the confines of his fraternity house except for "around the world" parties, where the only traveling was to the toilet after mixing too many different kinds of booze. The whole relationship was fiction, comprised mainly of text messages and drunken nights that we somehow cobbled into togetherness. In truth, we were biding our time. He was two years older, a senior with a finance job in New York already lined up. I thought, loosely, we'd someday transition this playing pretend into playing house, but of course we never did.
Ashes and Snow was stunning. The indoor space was dramatic and yet serene — like practicing yoga at the very edge of a cliff.
Our student group scattered quickly — mesmerized by the scale of the thing. A child kissing a lion, a little boy sleeping with a bobcat, a man swimming with whales. And then I saw him. Standing in front of a photograph I can only recall with a pull in my heart so strong I have to take a step back. The picture was of a little boy, eyes closed, eagle wings spread behind him.
I was instantly in awe. Of the photographs, the image itself, and this boy. The one outside the photograph. Brown shaggy hair. Low-slung jeans. Two brown shirts layered like dirt. I didn't see his eyes immediately. I didn't yet know they were the most searing shade of green, like jewels, so sharp they could cut right through you.
I stood next to him. We didn't look at each other. For minutes. Five, maybe more. I couldn't tell what I was seeing — him, or the boy. But I felt a current between us; the sand kicked up around us like it was charged, too. Everything seemed to converge. For one beautiful, exquisite moment there was no separation.
"I've been four times already," he told me, eyes still gazing forward. "I never want to leave this spot."
"He's beautiful," I said.
"The whole exhibit is pretty incredible."
"Are you in school?" I asked.
"Mm-hm," he said. He glanced at me. "UCLA."
"USC," I told him, tapping my chest.
If he were a different kind of guy — say, Anthony — he would have made a face. He would have talked about the rivalry. But I'm not even sure he knew about this ritual we were supposed to engaged in — the Trojans versus the Bruins.
"What do you study?" I asked him.
He gestured toward the canvas. "I'm a photographer," he said.
"I'm not so sure yet. Right now my specialty is being mildly bad at everything."
He laughed; so did I. "I doubt that's true."
"I don't know," I said. I looked back at the photograph. "I just do."
A group of teenage girls hovered nearby, staring at him. When I looked over they giggled and dispersed. I couldn't blame them — he was stunning.
"What about you?" he asked. "Let me guess. Acting."
"Ha. Hardly. Communications," I said.
"I was close." He extended his pointer finger out toward my chest. I wanted to grab on to the end. "Anyway, good skill to have."
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
"That's what my mom tells me."
He turned to me then, and his eyes opened to mine. That's the only way I know how to describe it. It was a key in a lock. The door just swung free.
The wind picked up, and my hair started flying around me. It was longer then, much longer than it is now. I tried to tame it, but it was like trying to catch a butterfly. It kept escaping my reach.
"You look like a lion," he said. "I wish I had my camera."
"It's too long," I said. I was blushing. I hoped the hair was covering it.
He just smiled at me. "I need to go," he said. "But now I don't want to."
I could see Conrad behind him, lecturing four of our group near a photograph of a giraffe that appeared to be almost to scale. Conrad waved me over. "Me too," I said. "I mean, me neither."
I wanted to say more, or I wanted him to. I stood there unmoving, waiting for him to ask for my number. Any more information. But he didn't. He just gave me a little salute and walked back toward Conrad and out of the tent. I didn't even get his name.
Jessica was home when I got back to our dorm. We were two of the only sophomores on the entirety of USC's campus who still lived in university housing. But it came out to be cheaper, and neither one of us could afford to move. We didn't have Orange County or Hollywood money like so many of our fellow students.
Back then Jessica had long brown hair and big glasses and she wore long flowy dresses nearly every day, even in winter. Although the coldest it ever got was in the fifties.
"How was the exhibit?" she asked. "Do you want to go to Pi Kapp tonight? Sumir said they're throwing a beach-themed party but we don't have to dress up."
I tossed my bag down and slumped in the living room chair. There wasn't room for a couch. Jessica was on the floor.
"Maybe," I said.
"Call Anthony," she said, getting up to turn off the ringing teakettle.
"I don't think I want to be with him anymore," I said.
I could hear her pouring the hot water, ripping open a teabag. "What do you mean you think?"
I picked at the hem of my denim shorts. "There was this guy at the exhibit today."
Jessica came back holding a steaming cup. She offered me some. I shook my head. "Tell me," she said. "From class?"
"No, he was just there."
"What's his deal?"
"He's a photographer; he goes to UCLA."
Jessica blew on her tea and settled back down on the floor. "So are you going to see him?"
"No," I said. "I don't even know his name."
Jessica frowned at me. She'd had exactly one boyfriend in her entire life — Sumir Bedi, the man who would a few years later become her husband. Their relationship didn't strike me as being particularly romantic; it still doesn't. They were both in the same dorm freshman year. He asked her to his fraternity invite, she said yes, and they started dating. They slept together a year later. It was both of their first times. She didn't talk about him and get mushy, but they also rarely fought. I suspected it was because neither one of them drank much. She was a romantic person, though, and deeply invested in my love life. She wanted every detail. Sometimes I found myself embellishing just to give her something more to hear.
"I just don't think I want to be with Anthony anymore." How could I explain what had happened? That in a moment I'd given my heart to a stranger I'd probably never see again?
She set her teacup down on the coffee table. "All right," she said. "We'll just have to find this guy."
My heart bloomed with affection for her. That was Jessica — she didn't need a way, just a why. "You're crazy," I told her. I stood up and glanced out our twentieth-story window. Outside students were walking back and forth across campus like tiny tin soldiers sent on a mission. It all looked so orderly and intentional from up here. "He doesn't even go USC. It's impossible."
"Have a little faith," she told me. "I think your problem is you don't believe in fate."
Jessica came from a conservative family in Michigan. I would watch her evolution slowly, from Christian Midwesterner to full-blown liberal hippie, and then — many years later — a sharp right into East Coast conservative.
The week before she had come home with a stack of magazines, paper, and colored pencils. "We're making dream boards," she had announced.
I looked at the supplies and turned back to my book. "No thanks."
Jessica had been taking this course in spirituality — some kind of "Unleash the Power Within" Tony Robbins stepchild led by a woman with a self-ascribed Hindu name.
"You haven't done a single exercise with me," Jessica had said, plopping herself down onto a pillow on our floor.
I surveyed her. "You have anything with a little less glitter?"
Her eyes brightened. "Swani asked us to make a list of the five people living or dead we'd like to have dinner with." She rummaged in her supply bag and pulled out a stack of yellow Post-its. "No glitter."
"Will this make you happy?" I asked, closing my book, already resigned.
"For about an hour," she said, but I could see the spark in her eye. I never said yes to stuff like this, even though she always kept asking.
She started talking a lot then. About the exercise, about what it meant, about how the imagined fictional dinner was like a reckoning between parts of yourself you needed to come to terms with — yadda yadda. I wasn't really listening; I just started drafting.
The first few were easy: Audrey Hepburn, because I was a nineteen-year-old girl. Plato, because I had read The Republic four times since high school and was riveted — and because Professor Conrad spoke of his contributions often. I wrote Robert's name down without even thinking. As soon as I saw it I wanted to cross it out, but I didn't. He was still my father, even if I could barely remember ever knowing him.
I loved my mom's mom. Her name was Sylvia, and she had passed away the year before. I missed her. I wrote her name down. I couldn't think of a fifth.
I looked over at Jessica, intently making a list on a giant piece of parchment paper in red and gold pencil.
I handed the note to her. She looked it over, nodded, and handed it back to me. I stuck it in my pocket and went back to my book. She seemed placated.
But now, about Tobias, she was not. "I do believe in fate," I told her. I hadn't, but I did now. It was hard to explain. How big ideas about life and love had solidified in ten minutes of standing next to him. "I shouldn't have said anything. It was stupid. It was a moment."
But it was a moment I wanted to make more of, and we went looking. We couldn't find him online (searching "green eyes" and "UCLA" on Facebook did not give us very positive results — and something told me he wasn't the sort of guy who had a profile), so we drove up to the UCLA campus in Sumir's Toyota Corolla, which wouldn't go more than forty on the freeway.
"What's your plan when we get there?" I asked Jessica. "Start yelling 'boy with brown hair' loudly?"
"Relax," she told me. "I'm not yelling anything."
She parked in Westwood and we walked to the north side of campus, where the row houses and student apartments were. They all sat on tree-lined streets that poured out onto Sunset and up into the impeccable hills of Bel Air. I followed behind, grateful that it was a sunny day, there were a lot of people around, and we were blending in well.
"I know we're not supposed to say this," I said. "But UCLA is way nicer than USC."
"In location only," Jessica said. She stopped in front of a bulletin board posted outside a campus building — library? I wasn't sure.
"Aha," she said. "As I'd hoped."
I peered closer. It was a club board. The Food Club, Poetry Club. I followed Jessica's finger. It tapped a yellow flyer lightly. "The Photography Club," I read.
Jessica beamed. "You're welcome."
"I'm impressed," I said. "But this doesn't mean anything. He probably doesn't belong to it. He didn't really seem like a club kind of a guy. And what would we do, crash their meeting?"
Jessica rolled her eyes. "As charming as I find your negativity, they're holding an open house next Tuesday, so you can just go to that."
I shook my head. "If he was there, I'd seem crazy."
Jessica shrugged. "Or you'd live happily ever after."
"Right," I said. "One of the two." But I felt excitement spring a leak in me. What if I saw him again? What would I say?
My stomach growled then.
"Want to go to In-N-Out?" Jessica asked.
We started to wander back to the Corolla, but before we did I snatched the flyer and stuffed it into my bag.
"I saw nothing," Jessica said, looping her arm through mine.
When we got home I took out the Post-it and added a fifth. Him.
"Does anyone else like carp?" Conrad is asking. We haven't ordered yet because no one can agree on what to do. Conrad is determined to share, Robert wants to order separately, Audrey is displeased with the menu, and Jessica and Tobias have eaten two breadbaskets already. It irritates me that he has an appetite.
"I'm still breastfeeding," Jessica says to no one in particular. "I need the carbs."
The waiter comes over for the second time and I just jump in. "I'll have the frisée salad and the risotto," I say. I send Conrad a look. He nods.
"The scallops," he says. "And some of those aphrodisiacs."
The waiter looks confused. He opens his mouth and closes it again.
"Oysters," Audrey clarifies wearily. "I'll have the same, with the frisée salad."
Professor Conrad elbows her. "Audrey, I never," he says.
She isn't having it. She's still irritated.
It strikes me as everyone places their orders — pasta and soup for Jessica, steak and salad for Robert — that I didn't really think this through. When I chose each of these five people to be on my list, it was entirely about me. My issues with each of them, and my mixed desires to be in their presence. I didn't think of how they'd get along together.
I permit myself a glance to my left, to Tobias. I already know what he'll order. I knew it the instant I opened the menu. I do this sometimes, now, when I'm at a restaurant. I'll scan the menu and choose what he would want. I know he'll get the burger and fries, extra mustard. And the beet salad. Tobias loves beets. He was a vegetarian for a while, but it didn't stick.
"The crudo and the scallops," he says.
I whip my head to look at him. He raises his shoulders up back at me. "The burger looked good, too," he says. "But I just ate all that bread."
Tobias was concerned about his health in odd ways. Sometimes I thought he had a thing for staying thin — maybe because it made him look like a starving artist? He didn't work out, he wasn't a runner, but he'd skip meals sometimes or he'd come home with a new juicer and declare he didn't want to eat processed foods anymore. He was an excellent cook. The crudo. I should have figured.
The waiter takes our menus and then Audrey leans forward. For the first time I catch small little lines around her eyes. She must be in her late forties.
"I came with some conversation topics," she tells me. She speaks in that low, hushed voice we all know so well. She's delicate, so feminine it pains, and I have a pang of regret that she is seated at this table with us. She shouldn't be here; it's not worth her time.
"We don't need topics," Conrad says, brushing her off. "We just need wine and a theme."
"A theme?" asks Robert. He looks up from his water. He's a small man, short. Even seated you can tell. My mother had two inches on him. I always thought I fell somewhere in the middle based on the small pile of old photographs, but looking at him now I know I'm all his.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Dinner List"
Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Serle.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5★s “That was something Tobias always said. Fifty-fifty. In the beginning, I loved it. It proved he was complicated, that he refused a bottom line. I thought it meant he saw truth in things that were frivolous, and frivolity in things that were fundamental. It was a way of looking at the world that allowed the air in. but after a few years it just began to confuse me. It was like shifting sands – I couldn’t tell anymore what was real to him. When I’d ask if he was mad at me, and he said ‘fifty-fifty,’ what did it mean?” The Dinner List is a novel by American TV writer and author, Rebecca Serle. Back when Sabrina was still at college, her best friend Jessica got her to write her dinner list: the five people, living or dead, whom she would invite to the ultimate dinner. There were minor changes over the years, but here she is now, on her thirtieth birthday, sitting at a table with them: Jessica, Tobias, Robert, Professor Conrad, and Audrey Hepburn. Audrey, of course, everyone knows, and who wouldn’t want her there?; Sabrina’s father Robert, now deceased, left her life when she was very young; Conrad, her college philosophy professor, she hasn’t seen since she graduated; Jessica, now married and a recent mother, she sees very occasionally; and Tobias, the love of her life, well Tobias left a year ago. They’re in a great little restaurant, having wonderful food and wine (except Robert, who is an alcoholic), and they’re getting down to the brass tacks of life. The concept is an intriguing one, and obviously a bit of magical reality is needed to achieve it. With each chapter, the narrative alternates between the dinner party and Sabrina’s life from the moment she first encounters Tobias. The gathering allows Sabrina to ask the questions that have plagued her for years, in some cases, or for months, at least. Audrey and the Professor act in sort of mature advisory roles, moderators, almost. Serle gives her characters plenty of wise words but, despite the small cast, the support characters, apart from Jessica, are barely beyond stereotypical. Jessica does blast her best friend with this: “’You’re incredible,’ she says. ‘You’re never responsible, right? It’s never your fault. People are human, Sabrina! They screw up and they’re not perfect and they’re selfish and sometimes they’re doing the best they can.’” Sabrina is a sort of likeable character, although she does act thirty going on nineteen much of the time, especially regards her emotional maturity. Her belief that her relationship with Tobias is written in the stars and will thrive without effort, just emphasises her naivete (“We were meant to be epic. We were meant to hover above the normalcy…the same rules didn’t apply to us.”). Tobias is similarly idealistic about work and career and life in general. Their wonderful, meant-to-be romance isn’t entirely convincing. “All we needed was to stay this close. Right up against each other, without any space between us. If we did that we were good. It was just the world – with all its loud chaos, its demands and people and air – that made us fight, that made us separate, that was driving us apart.” There are certainly moments of joy, moments of raw emotion, moments of laughter, but there’s something missing here. It does end on a hopeful note, and perhaps a bit more length would have allowed the reader to experience a Sabrina with more maturity. Serle seems to have potential, but it’s not fully realised here.
The premise of the book is basically if you were to have a dinner party and could invite absolutely anyone, who would it be? They can either still be alive or already passed on. Getting to see who the main character invites and the reasons why is really cool and it really makes you think about who you would invite. Also, the ending kind of throws you for a loop and is completely unexpected. I definitely enjoyed the book and loved the historical figures that she decided would be on her list. I would be super interested to read more of her books and see what other ideas she comes up with! I would recommend giving this book a chance no matter what favorite genres you prefer. It's a cute little read that I'm very glad I gave a chance!
This book has an interesting premise, what five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party. This innocent list made by Sabrina at her best friend's urging while they are in college comes true on her thirtieth birthday. The people in attendance are Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina's father Robert, her best friend Jessica, her college professor Conrad, and her ex-fiance' Tobias. The books travels between the present to the past. This was a good read and at times brought me to tears especially at the end. It also made me wonder if I did this exercise who I would invite and why. It wasn't the light book that I expected but I did enjoy it just the same. I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
If you could have a meal with five people living or dead who would it be? This common icebreaker question we've all been asked before but what if it actually happened to you. That's the concept of this book and that idea is amazing and unique. The cover is a vibrant yellow. I love the design and the color. It make me want to read it right away. Unfortunately, that's where my praise for this book ends. The characters felt predictable and flat to me. I didn't connect with a single one of them. The story was told in present time and in flashbacks. It was confusing to the reader at times when something was happening. I wanted the plot to develop more than it did unfortunately. I had to force myself to finish this read.
Sabrina shows up for her 30th birthday dinner with her best friend, Jessica, only to discover a few others are joining them. She immediately recognizes that Jessica has invited her list of five people—living or dead— that she’d like to have dinner with. An unusual and amusing premise, but the book is mainly Sabrina and Tobias’s love story—from their first meeting in California, when Sabrina feels a connection but doesn’t even know his name, to their eventual romance in New York, years later. While the story drags a bit in the middle, making the reader almost wish Sabrina and Tobias would break up for good, by the end, it is a memorable tale that will break your heart. I’m writing this review ten months after I read the book, and still tearing up.
I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of The Dinner List from Rebecca Serle herself via an Instagram contest. When this book popped up as a Book of the Month pick, I immediately went to read the description here on Goodreads. The premise is a timeless game that you have played on a road trip, drunken night at your local bar, or first meeting with a blind date. "If you could invite any 5 people, dead or alive, to a dinner...who would you choose?" The Dinner List tells the story of Sabrina, a young woman finding her place in the world and coming to terms with her past. I was completely surprised at this book. It is very rare that I read a book and don't know where I am headed and at the same time, I feel totally enveloped in finding out. This book was sweet, thoughtful, and kind to the reader. There were quotes throughout this book and unexpected nuggets of wisdom that made me (for the first time EVER) want to grab a highlighter and mark my favorite lines. The chapters alternate between telling Sabrina's 5 people dinner and the progression of her relationship with Tobias. Serle writes with a tender hand. This book could have easily leaned cheesy or Hallmark-esque but it didn't. It felt real. Audrey Hepburn makes Sabrina's list and is present at her dinner and when Serle had the opportunity to make it one of those "omg I can't believe she's here at MY dinner" every ten minutes, she doesn't. Does that make sense? One of my biggest pet peeves is when an author is trying to pull you into a fanatical story line and feels the need to reiterate how UNBELIEVABLE it is that its happening. When I am reminded how insane it is that its happening, it completely pulls me out of the story. *rant. over* I enjoyed every page of this easy read. I have been recommending it endlessly to my friends looking for book club recommendations. It is deep, generous, and thought provoking. I found myself crying at the end and after closing the last page, I had to hold it to my chest and sit with it for a while. Such a thought provoking book about love, loss, and how we can all grow from past trauma. On a side note, I loved Rebecca's last acknowledgement, go grab your copy of The Dinner List and read it for yourself ;) It's worth every penny.
We've all been asked the question. If you could invite five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would you choose? Our answers often vary from deceased family members to famous celebrities to our childhood heroes. The Dinner List is a story about what would happen if that theoretical situation came true, and the outcome. What follows is an evocative novel about love, regret, and growth. The Dinner List was definitely a strange read for me, as I'm pretty much a perpetual light reader, and I also tend to avoid conversations of philosophy. However, I was immediately drawn into Sabrina's journey. The narrative volleys back and forth between past and present, explaining Sabrina's choices in guests, and shows her grow as a person along the way. While this book wasn't perfect for me, it was beautifully written, provocative, and full of heart. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of women's fiction, as well as all the romantics out there. 3.5/5
This was a cute idea, but just fell a little flat for me. I don’t want to give away anything but I just can’t get behind the logistics of this. I mean dinner with five people living or dead! What a deal – however I am not sure if it was because I was expecting more from this story line or I was hoping what sounded like a great idea just ended up feeling forced. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, except for Audrey because…..Audrey Hepburn! Otherwise the characters were unmemorable and it seemed like the MC and her bestie never resolved their differences which left me wanting more and disappointed. Would I recommend it? Yes, it is a quick cute read that most would find enjoyable.
5 words. Frustrating Heartbreaking Imaginitve Tragic Romantic Frustrating, because the characters are self-absorbed and I couldnt connect with them. Heartbreaking, because the whole plot is revolved around dinner with people who are dead or need to have the air cleared with the main character. Imaginative, because who wouldnt want Audrey Hepburn at their dinner table? It's fun to imagine. Tragic, because if the way some events unfold. Romantic, because this dinner is about people who mean something to the main character, even if she has yet to sort out what that means. I expected this to be a very lighthearted book, and it was anything but. When I think of the question "if you could invite any 5 people, living or dead, to dinner, who would it be?" I dont typically think of the question as something quite so.... dense. I think of people who I love and miss and want to see again, not try to figure out where everything went wrong. This was a very fast, easy read. The content was much heavier and more emotional than I had expected. I was frustrated by all of the characters, and wanted things to turn out differently at some points, but overall, I agree with the way things ended. I didnt love this book as much as I had hoped I would. But then again, it wasnt at all what I expected either. And that is my fault, not the author's. Overall, the writing style was good and the story kept my attention. It took me about a day and a half to read because I needed to know what happened and how it ended. I would recommend this book, however, I will definitely let the reader know this is not the lighthearted, whimsical story I had expected to read.
I really enjoyed The Dinner List. This book grabbed my attention by the unique synopsis, what 5 people (dead or living) would you invite at your 30th birthday dinner? I loved the choices of guests and how each character had made a profound effect on Sabrina's life. This included her professor, her best friend, her long lost love, and even Audrey Hepburn! I thought the concept was very unique and fun and I loved the story overall. I felt like it was definitely a page turner, in fact, I read it in just one day! There's lots of whimsy, lots of fun, but definitely an emotional aspect that is addressed towards the end. I even got a little teared up about it, which does not happen to me often! I loved this book and recommend it to anyone!
Rebecca Serle is an amazing story teller. The premise of the book, gathering of people both dead and alive for a birthday dinner celebration, may seem like an already tried theme. Yet, Ms. Serle has managed to make the story feel both real and possible with an interesting twist. Her writing is wonderful and she alternates the story between the present and the past. The story flows nicely until a surprise declaration halfway through the book. Once this new fact is revealed the story plods along in a more predictable fashion. Up to this point, I couldn't put the book down. I would have preferred having this new information shared later in the book. It soon became clear how everything would end, which I found disappointing. Although I, like the main character Sabrina, hoped for a surprise ending, we all knew that couldn't happen. Which, I suppose, makes the story feel both real and possible. Still, a wonderfully written book which I truly enjoyed.
2.5 Stars This is quite a peculiar little tale of Sabrina and her five 30th Birthday dinner guests (Audrey Hepburn, Conrad - her old professor from USC, Robert - her estranged father, Tobias - her ex-fiance, and Jessica - her best friend). Not quite sure why she was limited to only 5 people for her fantasy dinner party list but she was. Indeed the number five is a recurring theme throughout the book, particularly with Tobias and his random times to ask Sabrina for 5 words to describe how she feels in the moment. I'm not entirely sure what the author is trying to convey with this story and fear that it is all trying to be terribly clever and deep at the expense of the story itself. It takes some getting used to the flashing back in time to a specific event and then jolting back to the birthday dinner - in all honesty I never really got comfortable with that and it is a thematic trope I am well used to. It just felt somehow disjointed and quite fractured, mainly because Sabrina is quite an annoying character. Everything is told from her viewpoint and it soon becomes clear that she never really considers other people's thoughts and feelings when making plans or doing anything. Initially we are treated to her derision of her best friend's life and lifestyle choices and then, as the story progresses she is similarly judgmental of her father, her boyfriend and almost everyone she comes in to contact with. I am still not entirely sure why Audrey Hepburn was on her dinner party list - a very strange juxtaposition between people that were important in Sabrina's life and then a movie star. It was also quite disconcerting to have words put in to Ms Hepburn's mouth. As one guest was obviously dead it made sense that others were too so I spent a fair chunk of the book trying to decide who was an who wasn't pre-deceased - it does get drawn out eventually. This was all a bit of a slog to read, which is a pity as the first few chapters showed a lot of promise and drew me in quite well. Unfortunately as more becomes revealed you soon realise that Sabrina herself is quite a manipulative and selfish character and that everyone else seems happy to pander to her. Also, nothing is really resolved by this meal and all the interactions around the table, and the flashbacks they engender, become progressively more and more serious and depressing. There is no light relief, not even from the supposed love story between Sabrina and Tobias. All in all, I was very disappointed with the book and felt that it was style over substance. I did persevere to the end but will readily admit I had to bribe myself with the promise of reading an old favourite if I slogged it out to the end. THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK PROVIDED BY READERS FIRST.
Who would you want to be at your 30th birthday party on one night from your past or even the present, living or dead? This is the book that brings five people together, past and present, together. Taking place in a restaurant in New York from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, with Sabrina, the birthday girl, her best friend Jessica, who surprised her with Sabrina's late father, who left when she was a baby, and she really never knew him, her college professor, her on and off boyfriend Tobias, who she knew for 10 years and the biggest surprise of all, Audrey Hepburn, her idol from her many movies and who she was named after obviously. What I did find strange, more than coincidental, is that Sabrina and Tobias met four years later on a subway in New York, after initially meeting in California, when she "tracked" him down after seeing him and wanting to know who he was and instantly fell in love with him on sight. The book alternated between the present at the dinner and the past with Sabrina and Tobias' relationship. The conversation was never boring but for me it got a little monotonous after a while for me.
If you could have dinner with five people dead or alive, who would you pick? I would pick my grandma, Andrew, Nicholas Sparks, Emma Watson, and Lauren Graham. I mean how fun would it be to get to know these famous people! This book was seriously SO good!! It was not at all what I was expecting, and there was twists and turns that I did not see coming. This book had me laughing one minute, and feeling sad the next. It's a quick, easy read, and it is so worth it. I will honestly probably read this book again. I loved the concept of this book, it is nothing like I have ever read before. Once you pick it up, you are not going to be able to put it down! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it!
Who wouldn't love to have dinner with 5 of wonderful people? This is a well written book that pulls at your heart strings. Each dinner party guest is very important to Sabrina. As the story unfolds you will not want to put it down. You will not be disappointed. Make it your next Book Club read!
I'm not a fan of fantasy and I've always hated magical realism; I prefer my books to be firmly rooted in reality. While The Dinner List is certainly classified as magical realism, I think it's premise on the simple icebreaker question "What five people, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with?" makes it more paletteable to me. This is a topic that's come up before and it's interesting how Sabrina tracks the changes in her answer throughout her life - until that dinner is reality. I really enjoyed the alternating chapters in this book, showing us both Sabrina and Toby's relationship as it unfolded and the dinner that's the main premise of this book. The insight into the beginnings of their relationship got me hooked and I don't want to give any spoilers away, but just know that this book is heartwrenching.
It's something many of us have thought of before: if you could have dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would it be? For Sabrina, her 30th birthday dinner is that question come to life. Sabrina finds herself at dinner with her best friend, three important people from her past, and Audrey Hepburn. Over the course of the evening, we learn more about why Sabrina chose each of those people and how she got to where she is now. The story is told in flashbacks as well as snippets from her dinner. This book will make you think about your own relationships and decisions, and who you might invite to such a dinner. The writing is beautiful and you feel as if you are actually at that dinner. One moment you'll be laughing and the next crying. Ultimately, this book will make you think and feel good - I highly recommend it!
Many years ago at her friend Jessica's request, Sabrina made a list of people she would want to invite to dinner. She thought it was just a joke, but on her birthday when she goes to dinner with Jessica, those people are waiting for her. She finds Audrey Hepburn, her former professor, her father Robert, and her ex fiance Tobias at the restaurant sitting at the same table. What follows is a night of secrets revealed, emotional interactions, and ultimately, forgiveness. As Sabrina talks with these people, some of whom have passed away, she learns lessons about life and love that she will take with her for the rest of her life. Overall, this was a difficult book for me to read. I had a hard time getting through it because it was so sad. I think this book reveals important truths about relationships and how complicated they can be, and that is what I appreciated most about the book's overarching theme. You can't live in the past. You have to work things out, forgive, and move on. I didn't care for the copious amounts of profanity and sexual content (even though it wasn't graphic), and there were some things said and implied that I didn't agree with (one phrase was even blasphemous). I do recommend this book, but with reservations. If these things I mentioned don't bother you and you're looking for a helpful commentary on life and relationships, then this is the story for you. I received a complimentary ARC of this book from the publisher through the Bookish First program. A positive review was not required, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Thank you @flatiron_books and @thegirlfriendletter for a copy to review! When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her 30th birthday dinner she finds the 5 people she once said she'd like to have dinner with: her best friend Jessica, her favorite college professor, her father, Audrey Hepburn, and her ex, Tobias. She's not sure how this dinner has come together, but it does seem each guest is there for a purpose. Sabrina's life at 30 is not where she thought it would be. She expected to have a fulfilling career, security, marriage and children. And she thought she'd have all those those things with Tobias. As dinner is served and conversation flows, the guests help Sabrina come to terms with her current state and how to move forward. The chapters alternate between the dinner party and tracing Sabrina and Tobias's relationship. I have to say, I tend to like plots firmly planted in realism. As a girl, I eschewed Alice in Wonderland, so you will probably never find me featuring a fantasy book here. But, I found this novel to be quite original and the author makes an improbable plot work. There's never an explanation given for how this list of guests come to life to satisfy my pragmatic self. The author is really asking you to go with the flow. I have to say I struggled more with the relationship angst between Sabrina and Tobias than with the fantasy guest list. There are really sweet moments in their relationship offset by heartwrenching ones.
I was delighted from the start with the unique story line. I loved the concept "if you could invite 5 dinner guests dead or alive who would you choose?" and couldn't imagine what the author was going to do with it... well, she didn't disappoint! It was lighthearted but also had depth, it was humorous but also had it's emotional moments. It was completely unexpected in the best of ways.The story takes place at a dinner table with Sabrina and the 5 people she chose on a whim (yes they were there whether they were dead or alive). It flips between the past and present, giving you a little background on the relationships between Sabrina and each of the people she chose so you can piece together why she chose them or why they are here. I did feel like it could've explored some of the relationships further but I wasn't necessarily disappointed by that. Maybe that's just wishful thinking because I wasn't ready for the story to end :)
The story revolves around Sabrina and the five people she would choose to have dinner with, whether those people were alive or not. For her 30th birthday, she finds her dream dinner list has come true. Sabrina’s guests include her love Tobias, and the flashback storyline tells us how they met, fell in love, and what has become of them in present time. The setting alternates between the birthday meal and the past, while we wonder if this one night can change anything. I enjoyed the premise and recommend the book to readers who like themes of love, friendship, and family ties. It may even bring tears to your eyes. It is a fun read for fans of Audrey Hepburn. I may be adding her to my own dinner list!
We have all at some point went over in our heads the times we wish we could take things back in an argument or wished we would have said the thing we were most afraid of saying. Sometimes we daydream about simply having another chance. Sabrina and her friend Jessica while in college make a list of 5 people dead or alive that they would have dinner with. On Sabrina’s 30th birthday, that list becomes a reality. She walks into her favorite restaurant and there at the table are Conrad (a past professor), Robert (her father who left her and her mom when she was a little girl), Tobias (her ex lover whom she shares a complicated history with), Jessica (her best friend), Audrey Hepburn (one of her favorite actresses). What is the purpose of this dinner? Is it to simply chit chat, or will truths that they all have avoided become the things they have to face before the clock strikes midnight? This at first was a 3.5 star for me, mainly because I couldn’t get invested. But the ending of this novel just shattered my soul to pieces, and it all came full circle for me. If you haven’t read it, PICK IT UP. If you have read, comment below your thoughts/feels on it.
A tumultuous heart wrenching love story unfolds, as does the birthdsy dinner for Sabby, who has included Audrey, Conrad, Tobias, Robert and Jessica.
After a short time period, it seemed natural to be sitting across the table from the demure Audrey Hepburn. The relationships between Sabrina and her best friend, her former Professor, her father, and Tobias, the love of her life, became clear more slowly. This was a well-written, lovely book. Parts of it were sad, parts were enlightening, parts unexpected. It made me want to change my dinner list. It made me think about my dinner list. It made me think about what could or couldn't be accomplished under those circumstances. I felt the love. Through all of it, the love is an absolute. This book is luscious. Read it for all the right reasons. Elegance and love remembered. I won this book from The Girlfriend. #thedinnerlist