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When I first read the summary of this new novel, I was so intrigued that I "pre-ordered" the book before reading the first review. I am so glad that I did because it is a dinner I will never forget. I got very caught up in the story right away despite the fact that during the entire first third of the story you don't even know why two brothers, Serge and Paul, and their wives, Babette and Claire, have come together at a restaurant to discuss some terrible subject that involves their children.
This story starts with the ritzy restaurant and includes all five courses from "Apertif" to "The Tip". Paul, the narrator, has many (even too many) long-winded and disdainful thoughts about everything from the menu, to the outfits of the wait staff, to his brother and his family and politics. As more information about Paul and his family comes out, you begin to realize in horrifying degrees that all is not as it seems. The middle of the story was somewhat tedious, but the ending is so strong and sickening. It is the ultimate story of what parents will do to protect their children, no matter what they have done.
I strongly recommend this book and can't wait until more people read it so that I can discuss it with someone. The narrator did an outstanding job. I am still hearing his voice in my head as I can't stop thinking of this story. Loved it!
40 of 43 people found this review helpful
I think I missed the meeting when my book club chose this book, so I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I downloaded it into my phone and began to listen. Within a few sentences, I found myself laughing out loud. I don’t know if a person reading the book would get as much of the snarky humor inherent in this book (particularly the beginning) but it definitely comes across in the audio version as expertly brought alive by Clive Mantle. Just the way Mantle pronounces “Serrrrrrge” with a heavy, sardonic emphasis on the “r” made me laugh every time. And don’t get me started on the scene in the men’s room—hysterical!
The beginning chapters are a bitingly droll commentary on upper middle class life in the early 21st century. I absolutely howled with laughter at the descriptions of the pretentious restaurant, the self-important maître d’ (and his pinky!) and the ostentatiously named food. Side trips into the protagonist’s memories were also—at first—amusing, particularly the passage about the garden party.
Which brings me to another thing I loved about this book: the way the author described things. Like the woman at the garden party with a “voice like the sweetener in Diet Coke.” I also really liked it when the author described something and then wrote something along the lines of “well, no . . . it wasn’t exactly like that . . . it was more like . . .” and then went on to give a fantastic simile that left no doubt what he had in mind. In chapter 15 he gives three different descriptions of Serge’s face, each one more telling than the last: “like a new car that got its first scratch,” “like a cartoon whose chair has been kicked out from under him,” and finally “if he wore that face asking people to vote for him, no one would give him a second look.”
There is much, much more to this book, and once the action starts to heat up the comedy is replaced by a chilling look behind the scenes of these “normal” lives. Societal issues including racism, homelessness, parenting, violence and morality are presented as I have seldom encountered them before in a novel. The end . . . well, I don’t want to give anything away, but it was sort of like in the Road Runner when the coyote realizes the cliff has dropped out from under him. A great listen!
47 of 52 people found this review helpful