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The Dinner [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Herman Koch
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 12 2013
"A European Gone Girl." --The Wall Street Journal

An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives -- all over the course of one meal.

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. 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 the 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. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
     Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

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“A European Gone GirlThe Dinner, a sly psychological thriller that hinges on a horrific crime and its consequences for two families, has become one of spring’s most anticipated suspense novels.” – The Wall Street Journal

“Poised to shake up American publishing…Koch tells a story that could very well take away your appetite.” —USA

“[A] deliciously Mr. Ripley-esque drama.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“You’ll eat it up, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” —Entertainment Weekly 
“Koch’s ability to toy with the reader’s alliances while using one family’s distress to consider greater societal ills gives the novel a vital punch.” —Daily Beast
“A tart main course that explores how quickly the facade of civility can crumble. It's hard to digest at times, but with a thought-provoking taste that lingers.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The novel has been called the Gone Girl of the Continent, and not without cause: Like Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, it’s a tale told by an unreliable narrator, full of twists and skillfully executed revelations, ultimately registering as a black parable about the deceptively civilized surface of cosmopolitan, middle-class lives…What Koch achieves with his prose—plain but undergirded by breathtaking angles, like a beautiful face scrubbed free of makeup — is a brilliantly engineered and (for the thoughtful reader) chastening mindfuck. The novel is designed to make you think twice, then thrice, not only about what goes on within its pages, but also the next time indignation rises up, pure and fiery, in your own heart.” —
“Briskly paced and full of ingenious twists—a compulsive read…for those who can tolerate the unsavory company, The Dinner is a treat they’ll gulp down in one sitting.” —Dallas Morning News

The Dinner begins with drinks and dark satire, and goes stealthily and hauntingly from there. It's chilling, nasty, smart, shocking and unputdownable. Read the novel in one big gulp, and then make plans with friends—you’ll be desperate to debate this book over cocktails, appetizers, entrees, dessert…and then you still won't be done talking about it.” – Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl

“Funny, provocative and exceedingly dark, this is a brilliantly addictive novel that wraps its hands around your throat on page one and doesn’t let go.” – SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
“Herman Koch has written a sneakily disturbing novel.  He lures us into his story with his unfailingly reasonable tone (just acidic enough to be entertaining), and before we know it we've found ourselves in places we never would've consented to go.  The Dinner is a smart, amiably misanthropic book, and it's tremendous fun to read.” – Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
The Dinner is a riveting, compelling and a deliciously uncomfortable read. Like all great satire it is both lacerating and so very funny... Intelligent and complex, this novel is both a punch to the guts and also a tonic. It clears the air. A wonderful book.” – Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

“What a tremendous book. I loved every single gripping and strange thing about it.” – MJ Hyland, author of Carry Me Down

“By the end of The Dinner you'll have to rethink everything, including who you are and what you believe. This is a book you won't forget.” – David Vann, author of Dirt

“Mesmerizing and disturbing… fast-paced and addictive…The Dinner, already a bestseller in Europe, is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.” – Book Page

“This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners…before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller…With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life…this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness…Koch’s slow revelation of the central crisis is expertly paced, and he’s opened up a serious question of what parents owe their children, and how much of their character is passed on to them…a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances.” - Kirkus

International Praise for The Dinner

“The perfect undemanding, credible, terrifying beach read.”Financial Times

‘‘[The Dinner] proves how powerful fiction can be in illuminating the modern world...The reader does not rise from his table happy and replete so much as stand up suddenly, pale and reeling. Bored with Fifty Shades of Grey and all that brouhaha? Read The Dinner—and taste the shock.”The Economist

“I’m confidently predicting that The Dinner will become this summer’s literary talk of the town—and the Twittersphere—here in the UK, as it already is in Continental Europe, where the novel has sold more than a million copies. Order yours now.” Evening Standard

“Shivers kept shooting up my backbone as I became engrossed in Koch’s darkly disturbing tale of family life. . .As the dinner disintegrates into mayhem, we discover just how far the middle classes will go to protect their monstrous offspring.” Daily Mail

“Rather like The Slap it is set to become a contentious must-read. It may thrill, chill or cheat, but it is undeniably riveting.”The Independent

“This tense and thought-provoking family drama is set to become a major literary talking point as it asks the question: Just how far would you go to protect your family?”The Bookseller

“Hugely accomplished and surprisingly subtle.” Readers Digest (UK)

About the Author

HERMAN KOCH is the author of seven novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in 25 countries, and was the winner of the Publieksprijs Prize in 2009. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking family evening March 11 2013
By Ladybug
Divided into the five parts of a dinner, the novel starts by slowly telling the story of two brothers and their wives having dinner in a hip and chic restaurant in the Netherlands. Based on this premise, the narrative, given here by one of the brothers (Paul), seems quite simple if not common.

Until, the dinner reaches its climax and we learn the true reason behind this family reunion: the sons of brothers Paul and Serge have committed what Minny in "The Help" would qualify as a "terrible awful". As the extent and consequences of this "terrible awful" are revealed, the parents argue on how they should react and how to deal with this matter, even if it means going against all moral principals ... even the law.

The book format plays here a good part in my appraisal of it. Paul's first-person narrative is easily readable and intelligent. Moreover, Paul's monologue is brutally honest in the description he makes of his son's and nephew's terrible act but also of who he is as an individual and how he might inadvertently have influenced this act.

Another good point in its favor (and also the main reason why this is not a book you should read lightly) is that the author's aim here is not the obvious moral and ethic response we would have at first expected. The author is here shocking, if not provoking, in the lack of moral compass his characters depict. The solutions they envision to settle the "terrible awful" here lack even the basic legal ethic.

As you go through an array of emotions that span from disbelief and lack of understanding to anger and rage at the injustice that is openly displayed, it becomes impossible to put the book down for good and leave the story unfinished.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but not for me. June 24 2013
By Christa Seeley TOP 500 REVIEWER
The Dinner is one of those difficult to review books. Mostly because there’s so little I can say about it without giving anything away.

On the surface this is the story of two brothers, and their wives getting together to eat dinner. One brother is relatively well known in the community. The other thinks his brother is a buffoon. Recipe for a pleasant family meal right?

I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I heard the entire novel takes place over the course of one dinner. But once you meet these characters you’ll want to sit back and watch the drama unfold. They’re all pretty despicable people. It’s like watching reality TV. You don’t actually like the people you’re watching but you want to see them interact with one another. Each character was incredibly well described and you could just imagine all their mannerisms and back handed comments. I need to say it again – these were horrible people! They were so mean! In a way it kind of reminded me of a Martin Amis. Cruel characters, sharp wit, wry observations. Never a dull moment.

Of course, there is more to The Dinner than just a group of interesting, cruel characters. There is something deeper and darker going on just below all the surface tension. Herman Koch does a good job, slowly unraveling the mystery strand by strand. I wasn’t too surprised when the big reveal finally came out but I still really enjoyed watching all the characters put everything together. Watching this huge bombshell drop was just as entertaining as a surprise twist would have been.

Recommendation: Herman Koch has written a beautifully detailed, delicious mystery that has you questioning the power of family ties and wondering what exactly happened to humanity and compassion.

This review originally posted at More Than Just Magic (
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking March 4 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Koch tries his best to really make us think about who we are, and how we act as parents. Should a parent do almost anything to protect their child, even if justice is required? The character's personalities continually emerge throughout this novel, taking us to a junction in the road where we must make a decision about ourselves. Well written, perhaps a bit slow, but worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and quirky Oct. 20 2013
By Tez Miller TOP 1000 REVIEWER
It's difficult to review a book like this without talking spoilers, which form the most fascinating aspects of the story. So please excuse my deliberate vagueness.

Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner to discuss their sons. Paul Lohman's narrative is quite clever, noting the pretentious ways people talk about food, film, politics, family, teaching, and history. The dinner itself is rather ridiculous: several courses of unimpressive food in tiny portions. And the host with his pinkie-pointing!

The characters' viewpoints are understandable, but that doesn't make the people likeable. They seem to like a bit of drama, and Paul in particular likes to see how far he can push posh politician brother Serge into losing his marbles. Terribly awkward if experiencing this in person, but I love the trashiness. And I do rather love this novel, though I may be in the minority, judging by star-ratings I've seen.

It starts off easy enough, with plenty of Paul's smart observations on life...until Chapter 19. Then the story takes a sharp turn into psychological thriller territory, asking the tough questions about heredity, parenthood, and justice. Not everything is spelled out in detail, so readers may work to figure stuff out (such as a certain character's illness), but when you solve the puzzle it makes sense.

Are you sure you want to be parent? After reading Herman Koch's THE DINNER, reconsider. This wryly-told novel is clever and quirky, and overall a great read. Love the witty observations, love the drama, love that the author makes you think to understand the full picture. Huzzah!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service. A good book that makes you think
Excellent service. A good book that makes you think. Well written and well worth investing in. The story runs at a great pace and the tension is brilliant. Read more
Published 3 days ago by M B.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
just okay
Published 21 days ago by Frieda Bateman
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Slow start.
Published 1 month ago by Elvera Missen
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed very
very unique, enjoyed very much
Published 2 months ago by april h pope
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking!!
Rather dry for me. However, the subject matter is thought provoking so I shall recommend it to my Book Club.
Published 2 months ago by sunshine
3.0 out of 5 stars More misery
Koch writes about deeply flawed character that evince no sympathy whatever. Want to get depressed - read a Koch.
Published 2 months ago by Ian D. Hawkins
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Takes too long to catch your interest before knowing what it is about!!
Published 3 months ago by Dianne Laronde
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and different book.
This was great...a surprise ending that was hard to guess when reading. Something a little different.
Published 3 months ago by Dawn Myles
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent quick read
a study in psychology and the blindness of love and loyalty to family over reality and duty. A must read
Published 4 months ago by Sheila
2.0 out of 5 stars extremely contiversial
The book is great for a bookclub pick as there is a lot to discuss. I didn't like the style it was written in. The contents was unrealistic unbelievable. Especially the ending.
Published 5 months ago by Anne
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