Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 8:35 am
Lives are unraveled and madness revealed over dinner.
I'm a fan of the unreliable narrator, and Herman Koch has created a memorable one in the The Dinner's Paul Lohman.
You can't help but sympathize with Paul. A loving husband and concerned parent, he and his wife, Claire, are apprehensive about meeting another couple for dinner where the topic of conversation is sure to be uncomfortable. The other couple is Paul's brother, aspiring politician Serge, and his sister-in-law, the weepy Babette.
Their children, two 15-year-old boys, have committed a serious crime. No one knows they're guilty, except their parents, and they will discuss the situation over dinner in a restaurant where the food stands out for its high price, organic pedigree and small portions. The tension increases as the meal progresses, and the painstakingly detailed descriptions of each course antagonize both the diners and readers alike. As dessert is left melting on the table, Paul's true nature is revealed.
The Dinner, originally published in 2009, and translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett, has been compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. Although both books leave you guessing about who you can trust and end in stunning fashion, The Dinner serves its violence and treachery from a distance with a subtlety that's exquisitely creepy and cold. I loved it.