The Dinner – Herman Koch

Hi Book Bugs!


Man, oh man, has it been awhile since I’ve posted!! Honestly, I just haven’t been in much of the “reading” mood lately. I purchased a ton of books from B&N and just haven’t had the desire to ravish through them… Not to even mention that it’s been crazy busy at my job (where I do most of my reading, lets be honest…) So, for the past almost 2 or 3 weeks, I have been trying to force myself through The Dinner by Herman Koch…. and perhaps this wasn’t a good book to try to pull myself out of the slump with.

This book boils down to two brothers and their two wives meeting over a lovely (and ridiculously expensive) dinner to discuss the actions they must take due to the heinous, despicable act committed by their 2 teen-aged sons. (SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY) After a night out of drinking, the boys manage to get into mischief and end up murdering a homeless woman. The parents agree to meet up over dinner to decide the next steps to move on from this crime.

Characters- Paul (narrator of the novel), Claire (Paul’s wife), Serge (Paul’s politician brother), Babette (Serge’s wife), Michel (Paul and Claire’s Son), and Rick (Serge and Babette’s son). Less prominent character (in my opinion) Beau (Serge and Babette’s adoptive son). Remarkable qualities- Paul has some disorder that causes weird, uncontrollable reactions to situations… this disorder resulted in him losing his job. Claire seems manipulative at times. Serge seems arrogant and selfish. Michel seems slightly off, much like Paul.

Alright, so obviously this book took me forever to get through… Although it is mostly due to the fact I wasn’t able to get into the book very well, I also have to blame Koch for writing the book in such a long winded, and sometimes senseless, fashion. The pace of the book is very slow at first. I kept with it because I found Paul’s resentment entertaining at points, the the girth of the book really doesn’t happen until chapter 21 (page 120) when you discovered the facts of their heinous crime… even after that point, it is still slow moving until the last 50 pages or so.

Also, Koch leaves out some odd facts. The most important thing he never mentions is the name of Paul’s disorder! It was very irritating for me personally to not have the entirety of Paul’s story. Koch also omits senseless things, for example, he omits the name of the former school Paul worked for. Although it didn’t affect the story any, it seemed odd to me for it to be left out. He also leaves out the end of any of the confrontations. He beats Michel’s principal up (to the point of hospitalization), but no consequences are told…. the same with his run in with the shop owner! Maybe that is the point that consequences are not important to this family, only the actions are worth mentioning.

I have to say, when I was reading this book I was irritated that Koch would put this family discussion in such a public restaurant. If we were discussing a crime our children committed, it would be safe to say any normal human would keep that in a private setting…. BUT the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. These people DO NOT SEE CONSEQUENCES FOR THEIR ACTIONS. They are all naive enough to think that, no matter the setting, they do not have to own up to the short comings of their family. It is proven in the location of this discussion, and in the *multiple* actions of their children. They are just too privileged to see that they, too, can fall. So, good call on location Koch!

The egotistical, selfish ways of this entire family is mind-boggling. At no time during dinner do they really discuss the actions that needed to happen to their children for the crimes they committed. Everything is a battle to keep it has hushed as possible. Paul even fights about the validity of the life of the murder homeless woman during the supper. Even in retelling the story, the homeless woman (or the opposing person in any argument for that matter) becomes this disgusting, vile human (if you could even call them humans and not just a pile of excrement.) Paul doesn’t seem to have the ability to have compassion for other humans, a trait that seems to be passed down to his son as well.

There was some positive notes about this book. As I said before, Paul’s statements and mentality kept me reading in the first 100 pages mostly because his opinions are relatable (to me at least). Perhaps I should be concerned that I have his mental disorder because I, too, would have an issue with a pinkie too close to my food. Although Paul as a whole was a bit of a cruddy person, I thought his thinking was comical at times.

All in all, this book was simply “alright” to me. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I don’t regret reading it. Only slightly do I regret that I purchased before I test read it.


Read on, Friends!!




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