The Dinner by Herman Koch
Goodreads Summary: Paul Lohman and his wife Claire are going out to dinner with Paul's brother Serge, a charismatic and ambitious politician, and his wife Babette. Paul knows the evening will not be fun. The restaurant will be over-priced and pretentious, the head waiter will bore on about the organically certified free-range this and artisan-fed that, and almost everything about Serge, especially his success, will infuriate Paul.
Rating: 4 Stars
Review: Paul Lohman hates his brother. A famous politician, Serge Lohman has perfected his smile and polite mask, a façade believed by all but his family. Paul, Serge, and their wives Claire and Babette meet at a fancy restaurant to discuss a crisis which has brought the bickering family together.
The Dinner takes a lot of time to kickstart. At first, it seems like it's just a book about some people having a family dinner. It is much later that we find out this is not the case at all, and that dinner is only a formality and an indicator of the present. I enjoyed the novel regardless of its pace, but I think it could've been at least a bit faster without ruining the suspenseful effect.
As for the storyline? Extremely peculiar. There's no other way to describe it correctly, it's just strange. The Dinner twists and combines past and present, developing the characters in the present and showcasing their pasts, especially describing how they came to be as they are now. The Dinner successfully covers several topics which I didn't expect to show up.
Mystery is amazing in this novel. Questions of innocence and who knows what are asked many times, but it doesn't become repetitive because the story develops in between each occurrence of this and something new is added to the mix. This slow, gradually building method allows readers to form their opinions on every character and event, shaping it with each additional fact.
The Dinner combines food with some disturbing topics of discussion. A lot of things about the younger characters are implied, and we'll never know what really happened. Two marriages, two disasters? The ending has an unexpected, strange twist but I understand where it came from. All in all, this is a great slow paced read.
Purchase Location: Borrowed From Library
Buy the book: Book Depository
Recommended for: Fans of slow paced mystery novels.