Review of The Dinner by Herman Koch

Paul Lohman and his wife, Claire, are meeting Paul’s brother, Serge and his wife, Babette, The Dinner by Herman Kochfor dinner at an upscale restaurant. Paul is less than thrilled, since he seems to have nothing but disdain for his politician brother. Throughout dinner, readers get glimpses into the lives of the two couples, lives that are nothing short of psychotic, sociopathic and irreparably dysfunctional.

Sheesh, did I have a difficult time getting through this book! Although it’s short, and takes place all in one night (with an overabundance of flashbacks), I found it incredibly tedious to say the least. The main character, Paul Lohman, blathers on about how he’d like to bash people in the face over just about everything and anything. Although, we finally do come to learn he has some type of undisclosed mental disorder, it still became creepily obnoxious after a while. Maybe that was the author’s intention, however. I’m not sure. If that’s the case, then mission accomplished.

The nonsense of talking around things, by saying “I’m not going to mention this, that, or the other thing because it’s no one’s business” was ridiculous. Was there some artistic reason why the author did this and it just escaped me? It was aggravating and certainly didn’t help the book NOT to give readers the full story.

Initially, the book rambled on for dozens and dozens of pages before getting to the heart of the matter, which was also the reason for the dinner. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son – Michel and Rick – who, together, have committed a heinous crime and have so far gone unpunished. It is now up to the parents to decide how to handle the situation. I had to ask myself, who in the heck decides to gather in a public place to discuss a private family matter so sensitive and secretive that if anyone else found out, their lives would be ruined forever?  Wouldn’t someone’s family home be a much better choice?

Every single character was so far out there and so irritatingly wacko that I did not give a darn about any of them. Not once did I care about the outcome of any of their lives. I wanted them all to go to jail in the end.

At times, the author had a dry sense of humor, which I enjoyed and found myself laughing out loud once or twice. But, it was by no means a saving point for this book for me. I honestly don’t see why there’s been so much fuss made over it. “Chilling, nasty, smart, shocking and unputdownable,” says one of my favorite authors, Ms. Gillian Flynn herself. Really, Gillian? I cannot agree with her sentiments. I cannot recommend The Dinner as anything worth reading.

2 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

eBook Review Gal received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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