Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

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The Dinner tells a tale of the dark side of normal. The book totally disturbed me, and I think it was supposed to.

You know how Hannibal Lector disturbed everyone, and no one would ever admit to admiring him, but you just know there are people out there admiring him? Well, Herman Koch made me stand in terrified awe of Paul and Claire Lohman, and their son Michel. And they admired each other for the same reasons I was freaked out.

Paul and his arrogant politician brother Serge, along with their wives, meet at dinner to discuss a crime their teenage sons committed together. One family wants to admit the guilt; the other wants to hide the crime. Instead of working out a solution among the four, Paul and Claire bully their way to protecting their son.

I couldn’t love this book because the nature of the crime and the coverup was too disturbing for me. But I appreciated the brilliance of the plot development, the psychological thrill ride, and the deliberate writing. So often Koch intimated something without spelling it out: instead of reading that the neighbor is a pedophile, we read that Michel and other boys often go to the single male neighbor’s house to sit on the sofa, drink Cokes, and listen to music together. Koch employed this technique often – and I appreciate the effort it takes to describe a situation so precisely that the hints and circumstance tell so very much more than a stark statement of fact.

If you like dark journeys into the disturbed corners of the human mind, join the Lohmans at The Dinner.

-Calliope

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5 thoughts on “Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

  1. I have this book in audio format but keep putting off reading it because I’ve read some reviews that aren’t exactly praising. Your review makes me curious, to say the least.

    • I think you would like it. I am not into scary books so it wasn’t really my cup of tea genre-wise. What made The Dinner frightening was that the characters were ostensibly so very ordinary, chatting and eating dinner as if everything WAS ordinary. But it wasn’t. And they weren’t. Muahahahahaha.

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