Book Review: The Dinner

24 Jan

I just finished reading The Dinner, by Herman Koch. In short, I found it underwhelming.

The book is set up as a thriller, centered around two brothers and their wives who meet for dinner. We have an unreliable narrator, who I think is supposed to be a lot more interesting than he is. Also, as a reader, you’re supposed to like him at first and slowly realize how screwed up he is: I just hated him all along.

This book keeps being compared to Gone Girl, but I saw one huge difference: in Gone Girl, things happen. In this book, all the action takes place either in the past or offstage, making most of the book a dull description of the fancy-pants meal they were eating (oh, isn’t it just sooo clever to spend a solid quarter of your novel making fun of rich people?). Yawn.

It’s true that none of the characters are likable (including Claire, the wife, who is presented as a near-saint for a while), but that doesn’t bother me about a book. I can love books but hate everyone in them. In this case, though, the author seemed extraordinarily proud of how mysterious his novel was, but the setups never really seemed to pay off.

The two boys have committed a grisly crime that we spend half the novel leading up to only to have it be something that, in this era of school shootings and little boys being shot by policemen and airplanes falling out of the sky, was really not as affecting as it should have been. The narrator’s mental illness is slowly hinted at, but there’s no climactic moment other than that his son inherited it. Even the “final solution” at the end of the novel is hinted at for so long, and then completed so strangely, that you nearly miss it and don’t care when it finally happens.

This book was a quick read, but wasn’t the exciting, can’t-put-it-down, semi-cheesy thriller I was hoping for, a la the Gone Girl it keeps being compared to. It was more of a meandering journey through a dinner that lasted too long and still left me hungry at the end.


2 Responses to “Book Review: The Dinner”

  1. Glenna January 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    So…what’s your favorite read? Ever. Or recent, i don’t care.

    • laurenkcampbell January 25, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      I don’t hate all books! I’m currently working on Don Quixote (in English, sorry) and really enjoying it.

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