Book Club: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner was a fun read for me. I had no idea where it was going or what to think of everyone. At the beginning, I thought I knew who was good and who wasn’t, until I started to realize I probably shouldn’t believe everything the narrator was telling me. As someone who rarely reads psychological thrillers, I was probably the perfect naive reader for this book.

When I first found out what their son was up to, I felt sorry for them. I would be devastated if my children were ever involved in anything so awful. What would you do? Well, I hope we wouldn’t have taken the same approach these parents did. Things get creepier and creepier.

I was remarkably calm. Calm and fatigued. There would be no violence. It was like a storm coming up. The cafe chairs are carried inside, the awnings are rolled up, but nothing happens. The storm passes over. And, at the same time, that’s too bad. After all, we would all rather see the roofs ripped from the houses, the trees uprooted and tossed through the air; documentaries about tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis have a soothing effect. Of course it’s terrible – we’ve all been taught to say that we think it’s terrible. But a world without disasters and violence – be it the violence of nature or that of muscle and blood – would be the truly unbearable thing.

And, I still have questions. What was wrong with Paul? I’m still not sure how much Babette knew of everything. Did she leave her phone behind on purpose, or was it an accident? Are we meant to ever know everything, or did I miss something? It’s the kind of book that begs you to go back to see what you missed the first time. (I didn’t do this, which is probably why I’m still in the dark about a few things.)

The Dinner was great as a book club read. We hashed it out for half our meeting, and it also led to other scary topics of conversation, like all the trouble our children could get into because of easy access to the internet/you-tube/social media. After scaring ourselves silly, we moved on to other things, like picking our next book (Me Before You by Jojo Moyes).

For more discussion of The Dinner, visit The Socratic Salon!

How far would you go to protect your family?



33 thoughts on “Book Club: The Dinner by Herman Koch

  1. lauratfrey says:

    I’ve had this one on the shelf for a while. I would be a naive reader too! I’m very interested in your thoughts on Me Before You. I was the odd one out with this book.

    • Naomi says:

      I’ve actually already read Me Before You, but I’m interested in hearing what the rest of the group will think of it. I don’t know yet if I will post about it, since I read it so long ago now, but maybe if there is enough discussion it will remind me and spark some ideas. I do remember crying at the end, so it did get to me, but there were also parts of it that I felt impatient with.
      The Dinner was a nice change of pace!

  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings says:

    From the reviews I’ve read, I don’t think I’ll pick up The Dinner anytime soon. Although I would probably be the perfect naive reader as well. I’m also looking forward to your thoughts on Me Before You. My sister and I both liked it, though she complained that I gave her a book for Christmas that made her cry so much.

    • Naomi says:

      The reviews for The Dinner are all over the place, aren’t they? I will say this, though, that it made for a great discussion. There was one of us who really didn’t like it, but even she had lots to say!
      I do remember being very happy to be alone as I read the last part of Me Before You. πŸ™‚

  3. Nish says:

    I have never felt this book was for me before, but your review makes it sound so fascinating. I should pick this up now.

    • Naomi says:

      It’s a fun change if you are not used to reading psychological thrillers. Even better if you have someone to talk to about it after!

      • Nish says:

        actually, I am addicted to psychological thrillers, which is why I now want to read this one πŸ™‚

      • Naomi says:

        It would be interesting to hear what you think then! It might be different then the thoughts of someone who doesn’t read them very often (like me)!

  4. Emily J. says:

    This is such a chilling book, and I really enjoyed the journey it took me on. I am big on taking personal responsibility so I would not protect my children as much as these people did. Kids learn more when they suffer consequences, and this kid in the book wouldn’t have gotten as bad as he was (most likely) if the parents had started teaching him responsibility, consequences, and remorse at an earlier age by letting him fail at times at the smaller stuff.

    • Naomi says:

      I agree with you completely. I found that part of the book so sad. It is probably too late for Michel. He will not always be able to get away with everything…

  5. whatmeread says:

    Hmm, sounds interesting! I hadn’t heard of it! For some reason I’ve stopped getting emails from you. Probably my agency is blocking them. This happened with some of the other Literary Wives, and once I knew it was going on, I made a point to try to check their blogs periodically. I usually get yours, but today I didn’t get a message about this book.

    • Naomi says:

      Computers/programs are irritating when they glitch – I hope you get it figured out!
      I thought I was the only one left who hadn’t read this book, but I guess not! The reviews are mixed, but I had fun with it.

      • whatmeread says:

        When they block, there’s nothing I can do about it getting the email. I just have to remind myself to look at your site every day instead of being reminded by the email. At least your site isn’t blocked. Ariel’s is, and it’s much harder to remind myself to look at hers from home.

    • Naomi says:

      That is exactly how I finally managed to read it. I had heard it was a good choice for book club, so I suggested it when my turn came around!

  6. ebookclassics says:

    So happy that you are enjoying your book club! It sounds like this book left you with a lot of unanswered questions.

    • Naomi says:

      It did leave me with some, but if I went back and re-read a few parts, it would probably help. I’m not good at that, though – I like to move on to the next book!
      The good thing is that the unanswered questions are good for discussion.

    • Naomi says:

      Welcome back, Eva! πŸ™‚
      Yeah, I bet I would pick up on a lot of stuff I didn’t pick up on before. It was amazing the differences each of us in the group picked up or missed out on. Everybody brought a different perspective. One of us thought the main guy was a jerk right from the beginning, while most of us didn’t see it at first.

      • The Paperback Princess says:

        I’m not back yet…I snuck a peek at my reader today…funny enough I’m in Amsterdam right now!
        The first time I remember thinking that Paul and Claire were trying to protect their son from a terrible decision. The second time I was more like “holy crap they are insane.” It is a really good book for discussion! I think a lot of the negative reviews are because for the average person there’s not much to relate to here. Everyone in this book is a dick. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good ride!

      • Naomi says:

        Yeah, I don’t really get all the negative reviews. I like to read about creepy, insane people. Have fun in Amsterdam!

  7. buriedinprint says:

    I love that kind of story, where you instantly want to reread at the end (even if you don’t always do so, right then or later on). The idea that a book will reward on multiple readings is just the best. This is one which I only read once, but I did have that desire at the end, twinned with the desire to NOT want to know (which I mean in a good way, because he crafted the characters and story so convincingly). This one ended up on my TBR because it was nominated for The Rooster as part of the Tournament of Books one year; I dunno if you follow that event, but I bet you’d enjoy many of the titles and the indie-flavour that the event has.

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