Book Review: The Dinner Posted by Karoly Molina on Jun 1, 2016 in Culture
My latest Dutch read has been Het Diner by Herman Koch. A week after having read it, I am still struggling with what I think of the characters…which for me means it was a great read!
Herman Koch was born in Arnhem and grew up in Amsterdam. He was an actor for the famous series Jiskefet and wrote for the Volkskrant. Since 1985, he has been publishing novels on a regular basis. Het Diner was published in 2009 and won the NS Publieksprijs. It has become one of the most translated Dutch novels of all time, and has even been reviewed by the New York Times.
Het Diner takes place at a very chic restaurant in Amsterdam. The two couples are having dinner to discuss what to do with the recent situation with their sons. There are many sub-stories within the overall story such as the difficulties between the two fathers (they are brothers), the pompousness of the restaurant, the mental problems of Paul (one of the fathers), as well as the dynamics as parents and partners. The film’s trailer gives a nice glimpse of what the novel is about.
In regards to the writing of the book, Koch does an excellent job. The book is written in such a way that you are eager to know more. What will the parents do about their sons? Will someone take the blame? What will happen to the future prime minister of the Netherlands if the scandal of his son’s crime is discovered? The writing is simple (and I mean this as a compliment) and the story ties in nicely.
What I struggle with is the parents’ reaction to their sons’ crimes. Without wanting to spoil the novel for those who haven’t read it, the way three of the four parents choose to handle the situation is a bit repulsive and hard to digest. The characters, particularly Claire, Paul and Michel, are very likeable and yet are detestable at the same time. Throughout the novel, I struggled with liking them and despising them. The New York Times has two reviews about Het Diner, and both are very interesting in the analysis (Now Serving Spite and Dutch Malaise and Nasty Bits).
Have you read Het Diner or watched the film version? What are your thoughts?