Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Dinner" by Herman Koch

This book fixed me with its one great dark-rimmed eye weeks ago. Every time I walked by, it stared, watching me pass. I was enjoying The Goldfinch immensely, but I knew what I would be reading next. Even though this book technically belongs to my husband.

When Sam chose The Dinner, he thought it would be funny (though likely also very dark). He still won't believe me (and probably will continue in his disbelief until he reads it for himself), but he's very wrong. Well, OK, he was right about it being dark.

This novel tells a story within the confines of one fancy meal shared by two couples at an expensive restaurant. Our narrator, Paul, slowly dishes out tasty morsels of the plot . . . but no, that's not really true. The lines he feeds us more frequently turn out to be bitter, or sour, or even rancid. Events from the recent past are revealed as each new course is served, and further developments unfold as the evening wears on. A crisis takes shape, and conflict arises when those involved disagree on how to handle the situation. It all made for a rather depressing but ultimately compelling read. (And I can hear Chandler now: "Could you be more vague?")

This was also one of those books that really made me think (and not just in the usual "what is going on here?" way). I couldn't help but try to work out what I might have done when faced with some of the choices presented. In some ways, the narrator was so very different from me that I knew I would never react as he did (and it's quite a relief to be sure of that). But the issues of blame and sympathy and a parent's protectiveness left me ambivalent and conflicted.


Ti said...

I didn't get far with this one. i think I ditched it after just a few pages. It just didn't work for me.

Kathy said...

I'm glad you can do that. I may need to learn how. I've always had the gotta-finish-it guilt.