Dear Mr M by Herman Koch (Translated by Sam Garrett)
Publisher: Text Publishing
Goodreads Summary: A hair-raising new tour de force from Herman Koch, New York Times bestselling author of The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool.
Once a celebrated writer, M’s greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life, unsolved disappearance. It told the story of a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with a stunning pupil. Upon publication, M’s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.
That was years ago, and now M’s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbour who keeps a close eye on him. Why?
From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to M’s novel, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.
With racing tension, sardonic wit, and a world-renowned sharp eye for human failings, Herman Koch once again spares nothing and no one in his gripping new novel, a barbed thriller suspending readers in the mysterious literary grey space between fact and fiction.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review: Mr M is a writer whose sales are slowly dwindling. He still remembers the days when he wrote Payback and it was a massive hit. Laura and Herman are just two teenagers having a fun time when their lives are ruined by a missing history teacher. Forty years has passed since then, and while he may be slowly fading away, someone is still extremely interested in Mr M.
It takes awhile for us readers to realise what the point of the book is. The first part is observing Mr M from an unknown perspective, which can be confusing but will make sense later on. I especially enjoyed "Life Before Death", a recount of teenage years; it showcased the characters' backstory through memories and answered many questions.
A house some friends go to during their break, some funny films which aren't so innocent... There's a lot of teenage drama in Dear Mr M, but it's paired and mixed in with adult drama for extra effect and worth. Paragraph by paragraph, Herman Koch unveils this massive, detailed portrait. Questions are asked in a futile attempt to understand; for no explanations will be given until the end of the book.
There are some really vindictive characters here, but they all serve a purpose. Mr M, for example, is extremely opinionated in ways which would horrify the world if they knew. These characters have masterfully crafted personas, designed to be disliked. While I definitely despise them, I have to admit they add to the story a great deal and are invaluable to the plot.
Herman Koch has created an interesting type of book with Dear Mr M, a tale of rights and wrongs written in an unusual format. A few of our main characters get no perspective, and one gets a say but then disappears from the book. Fans of mystery novels and adult affairs are sure to love this book.
Purchase Location: Borrowed From Library
Buy the book: Book Depository
Recommended for: Fans of mystery books.