Skip to content
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!


    Amazon Says: Middling historian Lucas Paige visits St. Louis to give a sparsely attended reading—nothing out of the ordinary. Except among the yawning attendees is someone he did not exp more...
    Amazon Says: Middling historian Lucas Paige visits St. Louis to give a sparsely attended reading—nothing out of the ordinary. Except among the yawning attendees is someone he did not expect: Lola Faye Gilroy, the “other woman” he has long blamed for his father’s murder decades earlier.   Reluctantly, Luke joins Lola Faye for a drink. As one drink turns into several, these two battered souls relive, from their different perspectives, the most searing experience of their lives. Slowly but surely, the hotel bar dissolves around them and they are transported back to the tiny southern town where this defining moment—a violent crime of passion—is turned in the light once more to reveal flaws in the old answers. As it turns out, there is much Luke doesn’t know. And what he doesn’t know can hurt him. Trapped in an increasingly intense emotional exchange, and with no place to go save back into his own dark past, Luke struggles to gain control of an ever more threatening conversation, to discover why Lola Faye has come and what she is after—before it is too late.   A taut literary thriller in the gothic tradition of Master of the Delta. less...
    Amazon

    Amazon Says: Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shriver’s resonant story of a mother’s unsettling quest to understandher teena more...
    Amazon Says: Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shriver’s resonant story of a mother’s unsettling quest to understandher teenage son’s deadly violence, her own ambivalence toward motherhood, andthe explosive link between them reverberates with the haunting power of highhopes shattered by dark realities. Like Shriver’s charged and incisive laternovels, including So Much for That and The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin isa piercing, unforgettable, and penetrating exploration of violence, familyties, and responsibility, a book that the Boston Globe describes as“sometimes searing . . . [and] impossible to put down.” less...
    Amazon

    Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
    Amazon Says: Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domesti more...
    Amazon Says: Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter. less...
    Amazon

    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Amazon Says: Marriage can be a real killer.    One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its da more...
    Amazon Says: Marriage can be a real killer.    One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.    On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?    As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around. less...
    Amazon

    Engleby: A Novel by Sebastian Faulks
    Amazon Says: Bestselling British author Sebastian Faulks reinvents the unreliable narrator with his singular, haunting creation—Mike Engleby. "My name is Mike Engleby, and I'm in my sec more...
    Amazon Says: Bestselling British author Sebastian Faulks reinvents the unreliable narrator with his singular, haunting creation—Mike Engleby. "My name is Mike Engleby, and I'm in my second year at an ancient university." With that brief introduction we meet one of the most mesmerizing, singular voices in a long tradition of disturbing narrators. Despite his obvious intelligence and compelling voice, it is clear that something about solitary, odd Mike is not quite right. When he becomes fixated on a classmate named Jennifer Arkland and she goes missing, we are left with the looming question: Is Mike Engleby involved? As he grows up, finding a job and even a girlfriend in London, Mike only becomes more and more detached from those around him in an almost anti-coming-of-age. His inability to relate to others and his undependable memory (able to recall countless lines of text yet sometimes incapable of summoning up his own experiences from mere days before) lead the reader down an unclear and often darkly humorous path where one is never completely comfortable or confident about what is true. Mike Engleby is a chilling and unforgettable character, and Engleby is a novel that will surprise and beguile Sebastian Faulks' readership. less...
    Amazon

    Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
    Amazon Says: NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classi more...
    Amazon Says: NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student. Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive. Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control. Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment Weekly less...
    Amazon
    Print

    Comment about this page...