Takeaway: A complex, incisive, and unique thriller
for fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl
The Dinner by Herman Koch follows Paul, an unemployed Dutch father, and his family. As he sits through dinner, past secrets and resentments come to fruition between Paul and his wife, Claire, and Serge, Paul’s politician brother in whose shadow he forever seems to live. But Serge brought them all together to discuss one thing only: a crime committed by both their sons from which they must save them. In light of this familial tragedy, some family members’ true darknesses are revealed.
My opinion about this book changed a couple times. When I was reading it, I was captured by the characters, the use of mental illness as a horror device, and the ends to which the characters will go to justify their children’s actions. It’s a slow-burning thriller and there we’re not many plot twists, but it kept me very interested. When I finished the book, I felt wowed by the ending but thoroughly unimpressed with the book as a whole.
But then I sat and I thought about how incisive this book is; it’s short, but it’s jam-packed with thrilling content. The theme of dehumanization prevails throughout and the concept of mental illness leaves you speculating on this entire family. This book was unique, I’ve never read another thriller quite like this one; and for all my initial impressions, I simply think I did not grasp the full reach, content, and implications of this novel when it was completed. This book is both horrifying and masterfully written. No detail is left unresolved, and I was at the edge of my seat throughout.