"A fixed appointment for the immediate future is the gates of hell, the actual evening is hell itself." ~ pg. 12
Two brothers and their wives meet at a fancy restaurant. What appears to be a friendly dinner amongst relatives is really a life-threatening meeting to discuss fate. The Dinner is a gripping tale that unfolds in the viewpoint of one narrator, the father of a fifteen-year-old boy who was involved in a horrific act that has triggered a police investigation, jeopardized a political campaign, and shattered trust within a family.
Think about your first visit to a fancy restaurant. You dress up nice. Show up early to your reservation. The ambiance is set. You browse the menu (that you secretly looked up online earlier). You place your order.
"The crayfish dressed in a vinaigrette of tarragon and baby green onions." ~ pg. 37
"The lamb's neck sweetbread marinated in Sardinian olive oil." ~ pg. 42
"Warm goat's cheese with pine nuts and walnut shavings." ~ pg. 42
Fast forward to when your food arrives at the table. It is presented in a grand way. You look down at the garnished plate...and see more white space than food. At best, there are four bites. But you smile and eat it slowly. Savoring each small mouthful. Dessert is the same—all about the presentation and not size. You leave the fancy schmancy restaurant with a lighter wallet but still hungry. So you stop at a fast food joint on the way home. -__-
This is how I feel about The Dinner. The story moves along like the courses of a well-prepared meal: Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, Digestif. But it was like the fancy restaurant experience that I described above. All hype, then a let down. Sure, the book was a page-turner but only because I kept reading hoping to reach the good part. Hoping the long-winded narrator would get on with the story already! Hoping I will understand why The Wall Street Journal called it the "European Gone Girl." Waiting for the dark suspense to lead somewhere. Anxious to see where the clues led. I read the last word in the book and thought, "That's it? Oh." Yet The Dinner left me with a good lasting impression.
But maybe that was the author's intent. Maybe Koch's goal was for readers to ask themselves what would they do in this situation. How far would you go to protect your child? It certainly left me with a final thought—the characters' actions were justified in their individual plans to protect family at any, and all, costs. So in this regard, The Dinner will spark a discussion for book clubs, reading groups, and of course dinner parties. Check out the trailer below:
Title: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch
Published: February 2013