Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review - "The Dinner" by Herman Koch

When is a dinner not a dinner? When it's the scene for a serious conversation between two couples concerning a horrible act of violence two of their teenage sons have committed.

Herman Koch lays out all the courses of fancy meal in his book The Dinner, and with each course the atmosphere gets more tense until tempers finally explode with dessert and coffee. Early on we find out the connection these two couples have, and the ties are closer than just what their sons have done. We see a father trying to understand why his son did what he did, and we also see that same man attempt to come to terms with his own violent tendencies. How much of those tendencies are genetic, and what has he passed on--however unwittingly--to his son? What does his wife think about what the boys did?

I don't want to give away too many details from this tightly plotted, slim book. I will say that some patience is required in the reading. Koch explains his narrator's own history with violence, taking us away from the conversation during dinner about to handle the fall-out, and it may take a few chapters to see how the past connects to the present gruesome act committed by the two boys.

If you enjoy psychology, pick up The Dinner. It's not a thriller and while it does have elements of suspense, it's not really a suspenseful read either. It is a journey into the mind of a man and father as he tries to understand his son and ultimately himself.