The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂

14 thoughts on “The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

  1. For you or anyone else reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series…In 2012 he wrote The Wind Through The Keyhole. This is considered Dark Tower 41/2 as it fills in a gap between Wizard And Glass and Wolves Of The Calla.

    • Ah! Thanks – I do plan to read them all eventually so want to get the order right. 🙂 I’ve only read The Gunslinger so far and that trailer for the movie looked nothing like what I just read! Hmm…

  2. I read The Dinner a few years ago but I can still remember the art of it slowing revealing the reason for the dinner happening between these four people. These are some ugly people and perhaps its amazing how they can fuel these unlikeable characters to get the readers to keep going.
    However, I was excited to see it was going to be adapted but this is a tough one to put on screen. I haven’t seen the film yet but the early scores is making me hesitate.

    • Thanks, Kim! Glad to hear from someone else who had actually read this. 🙂 An interesting book and I suppose pretty brave of an author to write about such hateful characters but the story did keep me going despite that. It’ll be interesting to see how well they’ve adapted it – I do want to see the film whenever it’s available here. The low IMDb score is definitely disappointing, though. It’s a shame as I do think it could be one that would be great for a really good set of actors. I wonder if the low score is partly because people don’t like the story & how it doesn’t give you much faith in humanity. Hmm…

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  10. I would love to read a book where chapters are presented as fancy courses, but I think I will pass this book by. The beginning of the story reminds me of the play “The God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza which Polanski made into a movie about two couples’ meeting to discuss the brawl of their children, but the trailer to this film has the notes of Richard Gere’s “Arbitrage” (2012) in it. Weird.

    • It’s an okay story and a pretty quick read if you’re interested but, yeah, I’m sure you could just go straight to the film instead. I did love the way the chapters were presented but the book isn’t exactly groundbreaking. I’d still like to see the film adaptation of it sometime, though.

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