The Dinner- Herman Koch


So, if you know me, then you know when I see the words “A European Gone Girl” I cannot stop myself from picking up the book.  This is the sixth book I’ve read because of a connection or comparison to Gone Girl.  And this is the first non-Flynn one that I actually think comes close to recreating some of the WTFery of Gone Girl.

The Dinner takes place at a restaurant where the two Lohman brothers and their wives have met to discuss an issue with their teenage sons.  It is told in first-person by Paul who slowly reveals more and more about the dark truth about himself and his family.  I’ll leave my description really limited because this is a thriller and the less said the better.

This isn’t really a book with crazy, shocking plot twists, but rather a carefully-paced revelation of the lengths the Lohmans will go to protect their children and to preserve their happy family.  I really love a book where the ordinary is horrific.  I really love a book where that horror is revealed slowly, carefully, quietly.  This is why I am a huge fan of Shirley Jackson.  It is also why I enjoyed this book.  It does that disturbing everyday thing really well.  I also think there is something interesting about examining the lengths a parent will go to to protect their child.  We say we would do anything to protect our children, sacrifice our own lives for them, but do we also have the potential for evil in our efforts to protect them?

The first-person narration was also a highlight of the storytelling.  I was disturbed to be in Paul’s head, yet there is no way out of it.  If you want to find out what happens, you are stuck with Paul.  I love that I leave this book with questions about how reliable Paul’s account was (some of Paul’s stories have a certain dreamlike quality to them).  I am also happy to have a book with only one narrator… it is weird when it is refreshing to have a limited, unreliable POV, but that goes to show how over multiple POVs I am.

Anyways, this was a disturbing little psychological thriller.  I really think if you enjoyed Gone Girl for its disturbed and unreliable narrators and the fact it revolved around horror in the ordinary, you will also like The Dinner.  It’s a much quieter ride, but definitely worthy of the comparison.