Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#11: The Dinner (Herman Koch)

on March 19, 2013

The Dinner is the critically-acclaimed Dutch novel centering around two brothers who lives could not be any more different. One is a powerful politician set to become the next Prime Minister. The other is a history teacher forced to resign his post due to controversial statements in the classroom. The lives of these estranged brothers once again intersect due to the criminal actions of their teenage sons. The two men and their wives meet for dinner to discuss how they plan to handle the situation.

The structure of The Dinner is delicious. Each course of the meal moves the novel into a different section. The appetizers are constructed simplistically and with little depth. As the meal moves into the entree portion, the language becomes rich as does the story itself. The final section of the novel — the dessert — left me unsatisfied and longing for something more.

I simply have to ask one question. What's all the fuss about? Don't misunderstand. I found the book interesting in its concept. Portions of the writing were simply delightful. As a whole, though, the novel felt a bit contrived to me. It seemed as though Koch was attempting to write the second half of the book in a high literary style that was not in agreement with the beauty that opened the work. It almost felt like he decided to try to impress his audience by showing us what we should read instead of giving us more of what drew us into the book in the first place. This was a case of finishing a book because I was so near the end and not because I was drawn into another world by the power of the words.


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