The Dinner

Herman Koch, trans. from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. Random/Hogarth, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7704-3785-5
This chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners in the style of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller. The Lohman brothers, unemployed teacher Paul and politician Serge, a candidate for prime minister, meet at an expensive Amsterdam restaurant, along with their respective spouses, Claire and Babette, to discuss a situation involving their respective 15-year-old sons, Michel and Rick. At first, the two couples discuss such pleasantries as wine and the new Woody Allen film. But during this five-course dinner, from aperitif to digestif, secrets come out that threaten relations between the two families. To say much more would spoil the breathtaking twists and turns of the plot, which slowly strips away layers of civility to expose the primal depths of supposedly model citizens, not to mention one character’s past history of mental illness and violence. With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life. Despite a few too-convenient contrivances, this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 02/12/2013
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