Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Two Dutch couples meet for dinner.  Serge and Paul are brothers; their wives Babette and Claire sisters-in-law.  But these are not close brothers.  These are brothers for whom sibling rivalry has defined their lives, and Serge is definitely the winner.  Serge is in the race to become the next Prime Minister and is expected to win, while Paul has been unemployed for nine years.  Everything about Serge sets Paul's teeth on edge.

The two couples each have a fifteen year old son who are cousins and close friends.  Serge and Babette also have a daughter and an adopted child from another country.  The purpose of the dinner is to discuss the sons.  They have committed an act that has the potential to ruin not only their own lives, but those of the parents.  How far will these four adults go to shield their sons from the consequences of their actions?

Herman Koch has written a compelling suspense novel.  The reader will not soon forget the narrator, Paul.  As the story begins he seems like the guy next door, although a bit supercilious about his brother and quicker than most to take offense.  As the book progresses, the secrets in each family are slowly revealed, pulling each family unwittingly down a path from which they cannot return.  This book is recommended for suspense readers and those interested in familial relationships.

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