Jerseyville Public Library

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Monthly Book Club

The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • When Mar 27, 2017 from 07:00 PM to 08:00 PM (US/Central / UTC-500)
  • Where JPL upstairs meeting room
  • Contact Phone 618.498.9514
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The Dinner by Herman Koch is this month's book.  Below are some reviews of the novel.

Already a runaway hit throughout Europe, boasting more than a million copies sold, Koch’s sixth novel arrives stateside, giving readers here a chance to mull over some rather meaty moral quandaries. But not so fast. First, Koch has a few false paths to lead us down. The  story starts off casually and unassumingly with a dinner  between two brothers, one running for prime minister of the  Netherlands, along with their wives at one of Amsterdam’s finest establishments. The  other brother, as narrator, sharply ridicules every absurd element of the  night to great effect. But just as everything settles in, Koch pivots, and these pointed laughs quickly turn to discussion about their teenage boys and something they’ve done. And it’s at this point when readers will feel two distinct ideologies forming and will face the  novel’s vital question: which position to side with? Koch’s organic style makes for a continuously engaging read that, if anything, leaves readers wanting more. Another 100 pages or so exploring these issues further would have been more than welcome, but what is here will no doubt stir some heady debates. -- Bayer, Casey (Reviewed 12-15-2012) (Booklist, vol 109, number 8, p17)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ 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.) --Staff (Reviewed November 12, 2012) (Publishers Weekly, vol 259, issue 46, p)
Library Journal:
Originally published in 2009, this best-selling Dutch novel is now available in English so the  world can indulge in the  dark comedy of award-winning author Koch (Save Us, Maria Montanelli ). At an upscale restaurant in the  Netherlands, two couples have dinner  and a much-needed conversation about their sons. Koch employs the  narrative frame of a menu (aperitif, appetizer) to slowly unveil how these couples know each other and the  rippling effect their children's actions have caused. By the  time dessert is served, the  reader knows that the  two men are brothers, and the  narrative takes on Tolstoyan overtones, with each unhappy family unhappy in its own way. In a single setting, Koch successfully deploys multiple narratives of a single event to effectively show that our construction of history, and constant attempts at overdetermining the  future, is problematic. VERDICT A shocking, humorous, and entertaining novel that effectively uses a misanthropic narrator in leading us through a fancy dinner , with morally savage undertones. Recommend for fans of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage and Christos Tsiolkas's The  Slap . [See Prepub Alert, 8/27/12.]— Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH --Joshua Finnell (Reviewed January 1, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 1, p81)
A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness. Paul, the  narrator of this caustic tale, initially appears to be an accomplished man who's just slightly eccentric and prone to condescension: As he and his wife prepare for a pricey dinner  with his brother and sister-in-law, he rhetorically rolls his eyes at wait staff, pop culture and especially his brother, a rising star in the  Dutch political world. The  mood is mysteriously tense in the  opening chapters, as the  foursome talk around each other, and Paul's contempt expands. The  source of the  anxiety soon becomes evident: Paul's teenage son, along with Paul's brother's children, was involved in a violent incident, and though the  videos circulating on TV and YouTube are grainy, there's a high risk they'll be identified. The  formality of the  meal is undone by the  parents' desperate effort to keep a lid on the  potential scandal: Sections are primly titled "Aperitif," "Appetizer" and so on, but Koch deliberately sends the  narrative off-menu as it becomes clear that Paul's anxiety is more than just a modest personality tic, and the  foursome's high-toned concerns about justice and egalitarianism collapse into unseemly self-interest. The  novel can be ineffectually on the  nose when it comes to discussions of white guilt and class, the  brothers' wives are thin characters, and scenes meant to underscore Paul's madness have an unrealistic vibe that show Koch isn't averse to a gratuitous, melodramatic shock or two. Even so, Koch's slow revelation of the  central crisis is expertly paced, and he's opened up a serious question of what parents owe their children, and how much of their character is passed on to them. At its best, a chilling vision of the  ugliness of keeping up appearances.(Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2012)