April 03, 2013

Book #15 of 2013: The Dinner by Herman Koch


This book was not what I was expecting.
And I didn't even know what it was about so that might tell you something.
In the opening pages, 
there are keywords that give you an idea of what the book is about. 
Sometimes these words can be an unfortunate inclusion 
because they can give away a crucial part of the story 
that you wish you had discovered 
as you made your way through the story.

This book doesn't do that.
It says,
"Families - Netherlands - Fiction"

From that, you would surmise that it's a story about a family
and it is
but it's oh so much more than that.

The sections of the book are divided by course -
appetizer, entree, aperatif, etc.

It goes back and forth from Paul and his wife Claire going to meet Paul's brother Serge and his wife, Babette, for dinner.
From the beginning, Paul makes it clear that he doesn't want to go for the dinner.
And his descriptions of Serge and of restaurant dining in general are hilarious.
I liked Paul.
He was caustic
but amusing.

There were some zingers that I had to learn how to the use the highlight function on my kobo for
because I wanted to remember them for times like this.

Here was one that made me laugh.
In his description of the restaurant he talked about the men's washroom and other points about the decor:
"You could say- rightly - that they were all consistent parts of a whole: consistent with the waitresses' tight ponytails, their black pinafores, the ArtDeco lamp on the lectern, the organic meat, and the manager's pintstripe suit - the only problem being that it was never exactly clear what that whole might boil down to. It was sort of like certain designer glasses, glasses that add nothing to the personality of the person wearing them. On the contrary, they draw attention first and foremost to themselves: I am a pair of glasses and don't you ever forget it!"

I could see it so clearly.
And see just how ridiculous it was.

So I liked Paul
but then, as things progressed and we learned more about him, 
I wondered.

"Unhappiness loves company.
Unhappiness can't stand silence - 
especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when all alone."

I don't want to spoil it.
But I can say that you won't see it coming.

One of the reviews I read said it was like Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl".
While I was reading it, I didn't get that
but then, 

I did.

I'll finish with this,
Paul's disdain, while initially amusing,
made me think that that kind of...loathing?
comes from a place of darkness
that made me never want to get on his bad side.


Even if he is a made-up guy.







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