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The Dinner ~ Herman Koch

I enjoy a good unreliable narrator. It’s the same thrill some people get from watching horror films; I love it when I can’t predict or trust anything that the narrator is telling me. In my opinion, it is one of the strengths of good writing, if a writer can trick a reader into trusting a narrator and then “aha I gotcha”-ing in the last few pages. Plot twists and surprise endings don’t impress me as much, at least not anymore.The Dinner is a book in translation, and yet it does a brilliant job of presenting crisp dialogue, character observations and also trickery.

The story is quite simple. The novel is divided into the four courses of an elaborate fancy dinner, where two couples are doing nothing more than talking. How has Koch managed to write this as a page-turner? I hear you asking, well, therein lies his craft.

I will say though that I enjoyed the first half of the book more; before the real mystery started to be discussed and revealed. I was revelling in the awkwardness of the situation, the banal small talk; you know where two couples are forced to share a meal together despite absolutely hating each others’ company. In the second half, I started to really dislike the characters. I was on the verge of not appreciating the book, till I reminded myself that a good book is not about whether I connect with or am attracted to the characters.

Why you should read it:

  • If you’re looking for your next thrilling page-turner. Think Gone Girl etc.
  • If you’re looking for an enjoyable, humorous and yet shocking book

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • If you don’t like reading a book where you don’t like any of the characters
  • If your taste doesn’t lie in dark narrative