The Dinner

The Dinner, the sixth novel by award-winning Dutch author Herman Koch and already a bestseller in Europe, arrives in the U.S. with an excellent translation and great deal of well-deserved advance praise. A slow burn creeper, this suspenseful and unsettling novel turns a microscope on parenthood, examining the darkness that may lie just below the thin veneer of civilization, social grace and propriety.

The novel begins innocently enough with narrator Paul Lohman and his wife, Claire, preparing to meet his brother, Serge, and sister-in-law Babette for dinner at an upscale restaurant in Amsterdam. Paul is completely devoted to his wife and their teenage son, Michel, but is out of sorts; he hates the pretentiousness of the fancy restaurant experience, he's concerned about Michel and he doesn't care for his brother. Paul appears to be articulate and quite reasonable and at first it is easy to understand his discomfort. But somewhere between the appetizer and the main course, we begin to suspect that Paul may be that most slippery of guides--an unreliable narrator. By the time we discover that the purpose of the dinner is to discuss what to do about the sons of the two couples, perpetrators of a particularly heinous act of violence, our suspicions are confirmed and we've no choice but to stay inside Paul's disturbed and increasingly disturbing mind.

Throughout The Dinner, Koch raises questions about the nature of our bonds and values, personal and societal, yet he wisely leaves what might serve as answers to the reader. What he does do, definitively, is provide an immensely entertaining and absorbing novel that lingers--as tantalizing as the memory of a particularly satisfying meal. --Debra Ginsberg, author

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