Friday, February 22, 2013

The Dinner by Herman Koch

It's a good thing I finished this book at home tonight with a freshly poured glass of wine at my side.  Why?  Cause this is the kind of book that makes you say "holy crap!" and take a fortifying sip of wine when you've read the last page.

This book has been reviewed by many--either people love it and are horrified by it at the same time, or they find it terribly "boring" and stupid.  

I am one of those who find it incredibly disturbing and well written.  The story starts out pretty simply:  a man and his wife are meeting his brother and his sister-in-law for dinner at a posh restaurant one night.  Why?  To discuss their teenage sons.  What for?  You find out.  And you're disturbed.  

But you're also disturbed by Paul, the narrator and one of the brothers.  He's carried a loathing for his brother Serge most of his life--and now Serge is in the running to be the next Prime Minister--if he wins the upcoming election.  And seeing Serge and his wife Babette through Paul's eyes; well yes, they are asses.  He's a brash, annoying man, and she's a wife who just goes along for the ride.  Claire, Paul's wife, is so much more than Babette.  

But then you start reading more of the book, and you start to get that feeling in the pit of your stomach.  That feeling that the narrator (Paul) isn't quite what he seems.  Neither is his wife.  Neither is his son, Michel.  

And then you read enough to figure out that it's much, much worse than you thought.

I can't tell you anymore.  It would give it all away.  Just know that this book will make you incredulous, angry, and appalled at the character's conversations during dinner.  I'm not a parent, so I can't say for sure what I would do in these circumstances.  But I'm pretty darn sure I wouldn't be nodding my head in agreement with Claire and Paul as they discuss  their son and nephew over dinner.  I found myself saying "WHAT? THE? HELL?!" out loud quite a bit during my reading.  Good thing I was home alone.  

I understand the buzz about this book.  None of the characters are likeable.  Not at all.  You'll see.  But read it.  You WILL need to discuss this with someone else.  Wow.

Rating:  8/10 for a compelling look at middle/upper class society, how we feel about less fortunate people, adoption, adopted children, crime, and taking a horrible situation and turning it into an acceptable one in your mind--not a good thing.

Available in hardcover and as an e-book.

No comments :

Post a Comment