"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
-Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
If you knew that your child had committed a heinous crime, what would you do? How far would you go to protect them? And what would you do to the person that threatened to expose them? The characters in Herman Koch's The Dinner must answer all of these questions.
The narrator, Paul, takes you through an entire evening of dinner with his wife, brother and sister-in-law from the apertif to the digestif. It is at this dinner that the four must decide how to handle the fact that their boys have committed an awful crime. Throw in sibling rivalry, a prime minister campaign, and a little marital drama and you have an interesting book.
I wanted to read this book because I LOVED Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, who is quoted on the front cover. It was the first book where I abhorred both main characters but still could not put the book down....until The Dinner.
Honestly, I wavered between a three-star and a four-star review on GoodReads for this book. I really couldn't put it down. I finished it in three sittings (amazing for someone with a toddler and a baby under one). The author did an amazing job of giving as little information as he could in each chapter but still enough that you had to keep reading because you wanted more. When things finally all come together, piece by piece, you a amazed and appalled. If you loved Gone Girl, you should definitely give this book a read.
The reason for wavering on the review was for a few reasons. First, I really was appalled by the actions of some of the characters. I've been there before with characters (especially Gone Girl), but something about this book and situation felt like it could, too easily, be something that could actually happen in today's world. That feeling just made me a little sick about what the world is coming to. Second, there is a lot of cursing in the book and other crude language. I get that this is how much of the world talks now, and I'll admit that I picked up some bad language from friends in high school and college that I'm still working on removing from my vocabulary, but I don't see the need for it in a novel. I want to believe that an author can rise up that to make his or her point. And the last reason is that there were a few places in the book where the transition from memory to present were vague and hard to determine. It made a few places confusing.
"A happy family can survive a shipwreck. I'm not trying to say that the family will happier afterwards, but in any case not unhappier.
[...] You don't have to know everything about each other. Secrets didn't get in the way of happiness."
-The Dinner by Herman Koch
In the end, I gave this book a four-star review. If you are looking for a book to challenge your thinking and to spark dinner table discussion, then I recommend you pick up a copy of The Dinner by Herman Koch.
Learn more about the book here.
Learn more about the author, Herman Koch, here.
Disclosure: The above post does contain affiliate links. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.