Mr. Koch confines his story to one fraught restaurant meal, where malice, cruelty, craziness and a deeply European malaise are very much on the menu ... This book has been widely described as both thriller and chiller, but it really is neither. Nor is it much of a cultural parable, though that seems to be part of Mr. Koch’s intent ... Mr. Koch sets forth a personal history for Paul that is full of dangerous flashes of violence and indicates that Michel, his and Claire’s son, is an apple fallen right off the paternal family tree ...the reader may be propelled by sheer voyeurism about the Lohmans’ capacity for ugliness ...The Dinner has been wishfully compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (and enthusiastically endorsed by Ms. Flynn) for its blackhearted deviltry ... Her sneaky spouses were delectable in their evil genius. The Lohmans are indigestible.
It's fast-paced and riveting. Written in cool, detached prose (deftly translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett), The Dinner is as theatrical and dramatic as a well-crafted play. It's also nasty. It starts off as social satire but shifts gears, and you find yourself in the middle of a horror story ... Paul, the narrator, is a former high-school history teacher who, we are told, has been placed on 'non-active' status ... Gradually we realize that Paul, with his mounting bile and smoldering resentments, is not a reliable narrator. He has a history of violent outbursts and takes medication to control them ... Issues of morality, responsibility and punishment are raised along the way, and a Pinteresque menace lurks under the surface ... In the end, the book sits on the digestion less like an over-indulgent 'fine dining' experience than Chinese food, which, as we all know, leaves you feeling hungry a couple of hours later.
In his new book, The Dinner, Dutch author Herman Koch structures his entire plot around a five-course meal, going from aperitif to digestif ... It's the story of two couples meeting for dinner in a sophisticated Amsterdam restaurant, the type of place where every item on the menu practically comes with a birth certificate, and in very small portions ... Half the pleasure of reading The Dinner is feeling the author's steady hand on the story as secrets are revealed ...the second reason why I so enjoyed this novel. The Dinner is an alarming drama ... Their crime could take place in Nebraska as easily as the Netherlands. But it's their parents' behavior that's even more chilling ... The best part about The Dinner was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn't get up from the table.