Review | The Dinner by Herman Koch

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse – the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. 

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. 

My Thoughts:

This book was Odd, with a capital O. The author was recommended by a fellow book club member. He had enjoyed Koch’s latest book The Ditch and was telling us about it at our last meeting. We all were intrigued and so we decided as a group to read this book to discuss at our October meeting. But it is so different from what I normally read, and not in a good way.

This book falls in the satirical fiction genre. Satire is not something I easily understand, and therefore it’s not a genre that I typically explore. Simply put, I just don’t really get it. Here’s an official definition of satire fiction, for those of you who may also be unsure as to what it actually is.

Satire is a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society, by using humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule. It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foibles.

Taken from

But honestly, that definition doesn’t even really help me understand Satire.

So because of the genre and writing style of this book, I barely got through it. The main premise is that two couples (in which the husbands are brothers) are meeting to discuss a shocking and horrible act against a homeless individual that was committed by their two teenage boys. The have this discussion over a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant. But the way the parents handle it was boggling my mind! Their thought process, their priorities, everything! So the parenting is very questionable, to say the least. None of the parents are on the same page, and appear to all be thinking about the act from a selfish perspective.

The book is written in first person. Mr. Lohman (the narrator) remains somewhat of a mystery because it appears he has this ailment but the reader never finds out what it actually is. And then he goes back and forth between present time, which is the dinner that is happening, and the past to reveal information and events about himself and his family prior to. Ultimately, I found the back and forth timelines confusing to follow.

My Rating: :star: :star: (I got through it, but barely)

I’d Recommend This Book If:

  • you enjoy and understand Satire (so basically you are the opposite of me)
  • you like books set in The Netherlands
  • you enjoy reading books that have become movies (The Dinner staring Richard Gere & Laura Linney was released in 2017).



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