The Dinner by Herman Koch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Apparently, The Dinner is quite a sensation in Europe and it's easy to see why. Unlike This Beautiful Life, this left me thinking about what it means to be a parent and how far I would go to protect my family.
Paul is our window into this story: he was a teacher, currently "on remove" while he recovers from what he insists is a temporary burnout and what the doctors would call an 'illness' or 'syndrome', and he is the younger brother of Serge Lohman, potentially the next prime minister of the Netherlands. Paul and Claire have a son, Michel, who has changed in some ways but then, he's a teen and teens do change. Serge and his wife Babette have two sons, Nick and their adopted son Beau (from Burkina Faso), both close to Michel's age.
Ostensibly set during one evening's dinner at a very chichi restaurant (the type you need to make reservations at months in advance, but Serge - being Serge - only calls 'day of' and gets a table) but replete with flashbacks to summer vacations, visits to the doctor and hospital, and other important days, the relationships between the four unravels. Why? Because of the actions of their three sons - an attack on a homeless woman that is caught on security camera (the boys are unidentifiable) and broadcast on national television.
Knowing that your child is responsible for a reprehensible act, how would you react? What would you do to protect that child, to protect your family? How responsible would you feel about their actions - is it a genetic flaw, a fault in childrearing, is there something you could have done? Some of these questions are dealt with in the book, others not so much. To say more would be definite spoiler territory, but it was at times surprising what choices Paul and Claire make.
This isn't quite a 5-star, but it's definitely more than 4... probably 4.5. I predict much conversation about this book when it's finally released here.
ARC provided by publisher
9 hours ago