Friday, 25 October 2013

Guest Book Review - The Dinner by Herman Koch (Translated by Sam Garrett)

Each year I have the pleasure of working with a group of readers to collectively select the books that will feature in a reading programme, Summer Reads. Between August 2013 and January 2014, the Readers' Circle will work through a longlist of more than 150 books to find the 6 titles that we fall in love with and want to recommend to other readers. And throughout that period I'll be posting some of the reviews here on Books, Time and Silence. 
*Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of this book.

Guest review by Lara Narkiewicz

The Dinner describes an evening meal between two couples, bound together by the two men who are brothers. It initially seems like a dark tale of a brother’s resentment towards his sibling. But soon it becomes clear that the couples have not come together to discuss themselves, but instead to attempt to agree on how to deal with the fallout of a horrific act committed by their two sons.

I read this book a year ago and, at the time, felt that my enjoyment of the novel was overshadowed by my shock at the harrowing description of the actions of the two boys. Indeed, this isn’t a novel to be enjoyed, but one that asks difficult questions of the reader. How far would you go to protect your child, no matter what he or she had done? Would you betray your partner rather than your child? How well do you know those you feel closest to?

These are questions that have stayed with me every time that I have thought back to this story. They, and the quality of Koch’s humour (at times wholly dark), have rendered this tale as vivid in my memory as when I turned the last page. And it is very much a page turner. I felt compelled to find out what the boys had done and then exactly how their parents were to deal with it- or whether that was the real issue at hand.

Those who might compare The Dinner to We Need To Talk About Kevin are not highlighting the very different relationships between the characters. This is a novel that examines why people are compelled to do what they do, rather than Shriver’s examination of the nature versus nurture question. 

This is not a story for the faint hearted but for those who persevere, there is plenty within these pages to consider and discuss. And despite it having been a best seller in the author’s native Netherlands, and its imminent development into a major film, I wouldn’t let this deter a more adventurous reader. It is a hugely rewarding novel. 

The Dinner was first published in the UK by Atlantic Books in 2012. Edition shown is the paperback edition, published 2013. ISBN: 9781848873834; 311pp

Lara Narkiewicz
As a young girl, my dream was to move into my local library or bookshop and live amongst all the books. Although this dream never came to fruition (much to my disappointment), I am in the very lucky position to work in the literature sector. I co-produce Summer Reads, Writers’ Centre Norwich’s reader development programme and love the winter months when readers help us to select the books to be promoted over the summer. With an undergraduate degree in languages, my passion lies in translated fiction and short stories. I know that my understanding of others and of the world around us has been helped immensely by my love of reading and I always try to read new books that will challenge me. This is what Summer Reads is all about- encouraging readers to try something new. I’m really proud to be a part of it.


Julia said...

Yes I agree, I am not sure that like is a word I would apply to this novel exactly, but it has certainly stayed with me and months later I still find myself thinking about it.

Andrew Blackman said...

One of those books I've heard good things about, but never read. Thanks for pointing out the difference between this and Lionel Shriver's book. On the surface the subject matter sounds similar, but that's a good distinction to make.

Chhattisgarh fiction said...

I read the review of the book THE DINNER and i felt quite interesting.I hope i will soon find this book.

I am going to fill u with enthuasism and fictions with a new coming book "Future Past" written by Author- Subrat plz dont wait read this book at