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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excellent novel, excellent narration
The problem is...it's all highly improbable
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.