Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #39: The Dinner by Herman Koch

dinnerI had greatly anticipated getting this book from the library after seeing so many reviews for it this year.  I had deliberately avoided reading anything about it as I had thought this would be another Gone Girl – one of those fantastic books where the less you know going in the better.  Now that I have read it, I desperately want to read those reviews, but won’t allow myself to until I try to put down some of my thoughts here.  I did not enjoy this book; it made me feel anxious and revolted and I won’t be recommending it to anyone.  Does that mean it’s not a good book?  No, quite the opposite, really.  The fact that a novel can produce such a strong visceral reaction must surely mean that it’s well written, but it upset me.  Does that make it a great book?  Maybe it does.  I’m just torn with attempting to explain my reaction without spoiling the plot for someone else.

What everyone knows going in is that this story is about a family dinner.  Paul Lohman and his wife Claire meet up with Paul’s brother Serge and his wife Babette at a fancy restaurant to discuss something that has happened to their children.  Told retrospectively from Paul’s point of view, the reveal is very slow and ends up somewhere quite unexpected.

I think this was a well-written novel, though occasionally frustrating with being slightly too heavy-handed with foreshadowing what is to come.  If you are planning on reading it, don’t read any other reviews, as the more you allow the story to lead you, the more you will appreciate the journey.  I do think it would be a good pick for a book club or any other situation where you can discuss it afterwards.  I’m feeling a bit at a loss personally, because I would like to talk to someone else about their reaction to it… maybe I will have to get some friends to read it after all.

One thought on “Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #39: The Dinner by Herman Koch

  1. Thanks for the honest and intriguing review! I was listening to the Book Report show on Saturday afternoon(recording can be found at bookreportradio(dot)com), where host, Elaine, spoke of this book in her summer reading line-up. My mom was given a copy for Mother’s Day, and just 2 weeks later, I was listening to a clip on the radio. My mom seems to be battling to get into the story, but your review sounds so unusual, I may just hijack it from my mom! I often find myself looking for a book on your site after seeing a friend with something new, or hearing about it on the radio show-I enjoy your writing style and honesty, and your taste in books often fits in with mine. As for the book report show, it’s a lovely tool for ideas on reading material I would otherwise pass over, like last weeks selection relating to food :p !

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