Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Dinner – Herman Koch

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction

When I have mentioned that I was going to read this book I received a number of comments that made me think I wasn’t going to like it – that wasn’t strictly true, it was a good read but not enjoyable due to the horrific actions recounted.

Set across the course of a dinner in a Dutch restaurant two men sit down to discuss their sons. Paul and Serge, and their wives, Claire and Babette, meet for dinner in a swanky restaurant in Amsterdam. Each of the couples has a 15-year-old son and, we discover, the dinner has been arranged to discuss a horrifying act perpetrated by the two boys.

What follows is a shocking tale, and I don’t use that phrase lightly.  This is not a simple tale of the boy’s transgressions but a journey back through time showing how earlier actions led to the need to have the dinner.

I found this book thought-provoking although it wasn’t what you could call an entirely enjoyable read.  In short there were moments when I was genuinely shocked at the revelations on the page in front of me.  I found it disturbing how my sympathy for the various characters changed totally with each piece of information casually revealed.

The root of this tale of how far should a parent go to protect their child? A ‘What would you do?’ sort of story.   A look at what happens when certainties of middle-class are shattered. Don’t be deceived though, it is also more than that, an example of how the surface of a family can hide much darker undertones.  I found the way that the truth of what has happened and why  coming out over the course of a dinner a great setting.  To then realise that I felt totally differently about the four diners at the end than I had at the beginning the mark of a clever author it’s just a shame that his characters were morally deficient.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

10 thoughts on “The Dinner – Herman Koch

  1. I remember feeling really unsettled when I read this book–mostly because I disliked the characters so much. But I still find myself thinking about it-so I guess that means it was well written!


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