The Dinner, by Herman Koch
Vista Book Group: The Dinner
In May the Vista Book Group met to discuss Herman Koch’s worldwide bestseller, The Dinner, which was translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. The Dinner won the Dutch literary award, the NS Publieksprijs, and has been published in over 20 countries.
In The Dinner the Lohman brothers, Paul and Serge, and their wives Claire and Babette meet at a posh Amsterdam restaurant for a meal. They have something important to discuss: the couples’ fifteen-year-old sons have committed an act that has shocked the nation and prompted a police investigation. The tale behind this meeting is meted out through the courses of the meal: aperitif, appetizer, main course, dessert, and digestif. As we work our way through the courses and the increasingly shocking story is revealed, the reliability of the narrator Paul begins to come into question. Is Serge really the buffoon Paul makes him out to be? Why exactly is Paul unemployed? Is there perhaps something more sinister lurking beneath the surface of Paul and Claire’s upper-class respectability?
This book was made for a discussion group! There were wildly varying reactions - some of our members hated it, while others were intrigued. When asked to rate The Dinner on a scale of 1 to 5, our average was a 2.7. One reader rated it 4.5, a couple of people rated it 1, and everyone else was somewhere in between. Some people loved the dark, satirical humor Koch uses to skewer the Dutch upper class. For others the book’s structure was a problem, constantly flashing back from the restaurant to varying points in time. We decided the real test was whether you would recommend this book to others, and everyone seemed to have a different answer.
All told, if you’re looking for interesting discussion The Dinner is a great pick for your book group. It is certain to provoke some wildly differing opinions, leading to a fantastic conversation!
Here are a few read-alikes for The Dinner:
The Last Talk with Lola Faye, by Thomas H. Cook
Identical, by Scott Turow
We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
Mind of Winter, by Laura Kasische
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
Engleby, by Sebastian Faulks
Defending Jacob, by William Landay
Please join us on Wednesday, June 25, from 6:00 to 7:30 when we will be discussing Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead. We will meet in Film & Sound, located on the first level of Richland Library Main. If you would like to pick up a copy of the book, please call 929-3400 or stop by the General Reference/Research Desk on the second level of Richland Library Main. We look forward to seeing you there!
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