By Herman Koch, Sam Garrett (translator)
Published by Hogarth
on February 12, 2013
Cover image and summary from Goodreads:
A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened... Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. I’ve borrowed it from the library and to return it unread two or three times, and when I had the chance to borrow a copy recently, I knew the time had come. I was going to read this book at last!
So I knew the very basics of the plot before I started reading, and I really thought I knew how this story was going to play out, but I was so wrong! I read so many books and predict so many endings that I just love when I have no clue what is going to happen. This book really played with my expectations and while the characters went from irritating to monstrous pretty quickly – they were all so awful and unlikeable! – I do love when a book genuinely surprises me the way The Dinner did.
Koch takes a simple premise and takes the story from what could be an ordinary, boring dinner and turns it (and my expectations) on its head. I read the majority of the book in a single sitting and finished it right before my usual bedtime. I was so angry and frustrated with these characters, though, that I had to stay up a little later than usual. There was no way I was going to fall asleep right after finishing this book!