The Dinner

by Herman Koch

"We shared something. Something that hadn't been there before. [...] You don't have to know everything about each other.  Secrets didn't get in the way of happiness."

This book was super intense, in a very subtle way.

It takes place during one night, one dinner, at an extremely fancy restaurant.  The dinner is narrated by one Paul Lohman.  He is accompanied by his wife, Claire, to this trendy restaurant - a place where he does not want to be.  Paul and Claire are joined, with much fanfare, by his politician brother Serge and beautiful sister-in-law Babette. They discuss the mundane. 

Throughout the course of the dinner, it becomes clear that the Lohmans have met to discuss an incident, a crime committed and shared by their fifteen year old sons. 

The parents' reactions and decisions about the crime are what is so intense about this novel.  While thinking about this incident, Paul flashes back to other times - to things he has done while possessed by his violent temper.  To his "solutions" to his son's previous misdemeanors.  To the way he ran his house when Claire was sick in the hospital. All of these past events are both graphic and shocking because of the way Paul normalizes them in his discourse.  

Without giving too much away, I'll let you know that Koch really makes you think while reading this book. He makes you think about families - how far they'll go to protect the ones they love, and what "family" really means.  I think that Koch bends morals in this novel; like, is it more right to protect your child or is it more right to tell the truth?  His characters of Paul and Claire have so many levels.  They both try to protect each other by hiding something.  At the same time, they have this beautiful unspoken language that they share, which Koch describes perfectly.  

This book is an international best-seller, and I can see why.  It's gripping and haunting.  It had me worrying about the fate of the Lohman family right until the last page.  Would they self-destruct?  Would Paul and Claire destroy Serge for the sake of their son?  And it had me wondering how far I would go for the ones I love. 

Read it. And then think hard. 
♥ Meg xoxo

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