Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Dinner - Herman Koch

First line: "We were going out to dinner."
The Dinner takes place over the course of, well, a dinner. Two couples have gone out to eat. The men of each couple are brothers, Paul and Serge. Serge is a famous politician in Amsterdam and has secured a reservation in a flashy, pricey restaurant.

Their conversation starts out rather mundane but there is foreshadowing of problems and as the story progresses, Paul--the book's narrator--flashes back to various scenes leading up to the dinner. As the story builds toward its climax--and dessert--the real topic they came to discuss is thrown out on the table: their teenage sons. The ultimate question becomes: How far is each parent prepared to go for his child?

The AudioGo recording of The Dinner is narrated by Clive Mantle who does an exceptional job of portraying Paul's deep resentment of his famous brother. The mere way he pronounces Serge's name drips with indignation. And his sarcasm comes through in every detail that Paul nit-picks about.

Mantle's presentation also sets up the plot twists well. Paul is trying to focus on the mundane, but as his thoughts turn back to his son, the conflict inside him is clear and the suspense builds through the expectation of the upcoming revelation.

Not being especially educated in dialects, I'm rarely aware if they're incorrect. I did find it slightly odd, though that some characters seemed to have a European sound and others more of an American sound. While it didn't bother me, people who are sensitive to dialects may find fault here.

A different inconsistency I noticed was reference to the terms "football" and "soccer." Obviously soccer is the American term for European's football. However, both terms are used in the course of the book and I wondered if it was an oversight on the translation. Again, not a big issue.

I think the label of this book as "A European Gone Girl" is not only misleading, but incorrect. It definitely led me to expectations that were not fulfilled. Which is not to say the book is bad, it is not. It's a thought-provoking, disturbing picture of violence, entitlement and family bonds that will abscond with your appetite. However, it has a completely different atmosphere from Gone Girl, the pacing is significantly slower and the plot is developed so that the twists are slowly revealed as opposed to Gone Girl's abrupt revelation.

The Dinner is its own distinct novel, with a distinct voice and approach to the central crime. It's an examination of relationships and the lengths people will go to in times of extreme tragedy. It doesn't need to be compared to other books; it has all the makings of a fine suspense novel and is deserving of it's own unique praise.

As with every AudioGo audiobook I've listened to to date, the production was top notch. The focus is on the novel and Clive Mantle narrates in such a way that the reader becomes caught up in the story, practically forgetting that he is reading.

The Dinner is a smart, suspenseful crime novel for the discerning audiobook fan.

The Dinner is available on unabridged audio from AudioGo (ISBN: 978-1620645918) and in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0770437855) print format from Hogarth.


bermudaonion June 5, 2013 at 8:04 AM  

I really want to get my hands on a copy of this one!

le0pard13 June 5, 2013 at 9:29 AM  

As usual, great work, Jen. BTW, I've nominated you for the Super Sweet Blogging Award :-)

Jen Forbus June 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM  

Michael, you're the best!

Beth F June 6, 2013 at 7:38 AM  

Those inconsistencies would likely do me in.

Dorthea Stevens June 8, 2013 at 3:20 PM  

Jen - Any idea what the genetic disorder may be?

Jen Forbus June 8, 2013 at 9:39 PM  

Dorthea, I don't have any idea. I kept hoping they would say exactly what it was. But something they can detect in an amnio??

Laurie C June 13, 2013 at 8:29 PM  

AudioGO is remarkably consistent in quality, I've found, too!

Alise September 20, 2013 at 9:47 AM  

I completely agree with your assessment of the "European Gone Girl" descriptor. While I'm sure it got Koch a lot of readers, the books are incredibly different.

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