The Dinner, by Herman Koch

dinnerAt the rate I am devouring novels these days, I have become a bit less particular about how I select what I read. [This has back-fired twice now, with The Goldfinch (way too sad) and The Blind Assassin (way too boring and pointless)]. One day over the Christmas holidays my mom mentioned to me in passing that The Dinner was rather a good novel. This off-hand statement somehow stuck in my brain when I went to make my next Kobo purchase. Knowing absolutely nothing about the novel beforehand (and completely ignoring its accompanying description as ‘a psychological thriller’), I was somewhat surprised to discover that what I thought would be a silly and fun romp exploring marital relations in a satirical way, was in fact a very dark tale indeed.  The book begins light-heartedly enough, with two brothers and their wives sitting down to dinner at a fancy restaurant. The characters were quirky and the writing was just on the edge of comical and so just as I was settling in for a wholesome bit of fluffy reading, the story took a very dark turn. I won’t reveal what this dark turn is, because it is alluded to right at the very beginning and makes for a very exciting read as you flip the pages to discover what’s happened. If I had been in almost any other frame of mind than the one I was actually in when I read this novel, I think I would give it a very high rating. However it so happened that I started this book at the same time as my husband and I decided to start sleep-training our 3.5-month-old baby and let’s just say that letting your baby cry and cry while reading a disturbing novel puts certain thoughts in your head, such as, ‘If I let the baby cry for one more minute, he’s almost certainly going to become an axe murderer’. As you might imagine, this can instil a certain amount of anxiety in a new mother, however ridiculous these thoughts might be. So…while The Dinner is very well written and a total page-turner, if you are a nutter like me, I’d perhaps avoid reading it until such a time when you have your wits about you.

(PS: in doing a google search for an image of the cover of the book to post here, I have just discovered that the novel is set to be made into a film, directed by Cate Blanchett. Not sure I’ll see it!)

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