The Dinner

  • by Herman Koch
  • Narrated by Clive Mantle
  • 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son.
The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrates, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

excellent novel, excellent narration

The Dinner is a spectacular book about family and society, among other things as well. This is not a cute book. It's heavy because it's about heavy things, and because it doesn't take heavy things lightly.

I liked the progression from bland dinner table conversation, pigmented with hints of a couple of mysterious incidents (something found in the phone of Paul's teenage son; Paul's sister-in-law arriving for dinner with traces of tears in her eyes), to the unfolding of the drama behind the dinner. The drama that started years before with instances of personal drama and of parenting; the drama that spikes in a horrific incident, then again in discussing it at home, then again at the dinner table.

The fact that this is a Dutch novel is extremely relevant, since Dutch society struggles with a very tolerant front which sometimes comes up to kick itself in the teeth. It is amazing what torments hide behind the blandness of equality and tolerance - not that they always turn violent, but that fear of speaking up against indiscriminate equality becomes oppressive in itself.

"The Dinner" is a painful analysis of society and family, delivered not from a high moral standpoint, but with a subtle understanding of nuances, of small things that make up or break up lives and relationships.
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- Ilinca

The problem is...it's all highly improbable

Any additional comments?

The publisher''s summary describes the set up well. While the story centres around a dinner at a restaurant one evening between two couples, what is revealed slowly over the course of the story are the events that have has preceded this night and the real reason as to why the couples have come together for this dinner. That is fine as it goes and I found it intriguing.

The real problem with the story, however, is that what is described as having occurred prior to the dinner is reasonably improbable. I just found it hard to believe. The couples' reaction to it I found equally unlikely in a normal world and what comes after the dinner is also hard to swallow. This is really unfortunate as the author spends quite a bit of time making insightful observations about dinners and about restaurants generally which will resonate with a lot of readers and is quite amusing. But in the end, what should have been a work that could have been drawn from real life just turned into more or less a bit of a fantasy tale.

Other commentators have remarked on the slowness of the reveal and the pace of the book. I did not find that a problem at all as the whole basis of the story is the slow reveal. The little pieces that you put together one by one as the story unfolds. It is just that all the pieces do not, in the end, add up to very much.

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- James

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-02-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios