The Dinner by Herman Koch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had to sit & think about this one for a bit. I'm still thinking & that tells me that even if I won't be raving about how excellent it was or how much I loved it, I did enjoy it & found it well worth reading. The Lohmans are basically a family of sociopaths. The set up is that the parents (Paul, Claire, Serge & Babette) get together for dinner at a posh restaurant to discuss a vile crime by their children (Michel & Rick). The scary thing is that the vile crime is not the ugliest bit of the story. No. As the discussion over the meal progresses, it's revealed that the parents are particular nasty pieces of work & they probably shouldn't be walking around unfettered & unmedicated either.
The narrator, Paul, was a trying sort. That we spend the first six chapters only with him complaining about virtually everything except his wife & son & hyping his brother up to be the very worst thing to ever have happened to him & possibly politics in general, it was pretty clear early on that something was not quite right about Paul. He was working inferiority, martyrdom & outright avarice like a skilled juggler. Call for Unreliable Narrator? Paul? It's for you. Just when I was about to throw in the towel with him Serge & Babette arrive & even through Paul's maddeningly twisted veil, things became more tolerable. It takes a bit longer into the story to discover Claire's twisted nature because we have Paul dispensing information & he's truly enamoured of her. Serge & Babette aren't good either but I didn't find them as wholly morally bankrupt. By the very end it's completely underscored, just in case you missed it, how insanely far Claire, Paul & even Michel will go to keep things under wraps. I'd say that they deserved one another but when existing in a viper pit, there's only a matter of time before two may turn against one. Then again, maybe that's as it should be.
Overall, this is one hell of a family portraiture. If you like books where most/all parties are morally bankrupt & people you'd never want to know, you'll love it. If you want a read where you'll get the warm & fuzzies, skip this. If you get the warm & fuzzies from this, see someone professionally. ;)
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