Friday, 29 March 2013

136/111 - The Dinner by Herman Koch

I only bought this book quite recently, partly because I liked the idea behind the story, but also because I really liked the American cover. The UK one isn't as striking, though.

It's book was really compelling and strangely enjoyable even though it was a little nuts in places. It opens with Paul's thoughts (he is the narrator for the entire thing) as he prepares to go to a fancy restaurant with his wife for dinner. They are meeting another couple there, and shortly after that it's revealed to be Paul's brother. He isn't looking forward to this meal as they will have to get onto the subject of their sons, and what they have done. What's more, Paul's brother Serge is a pompous politician who he pretty much can't stand.

The story jumps between the meal going on at that moment and moments from the past, and gets increasingly disturbing as the story progresses. As it turns out, Paul's and Serge's sons have been responsible for something terrible, which I won't reveal here because it's a pretty major twist. They have also been caught on CCTV, and so the purpose of the dinner is to discuss how to handle this. As the discussion progresses, and Paul continues to give flashbacks into his life, you very quickly start to get the sense that he is pretty unhinged. He loses his job, and shows violent tendencies to a string of strangers over the course of his son's childhood. I think unhinged is the word that describes him best.

It's also pretty darkly funny, throughout, such as all the moments with the head waiter. At this fancy restaurant, the head waiter meticulously points out everything on everyone's plates, and Paul is irritated by how close his fingers come to touching the food, The ending is also great, very surprising actions from Paul's wife, Claire. I liked it a lot.

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