The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner

This novel revolves around two brothers and their wives having a five-course dinner in a very upscale Amsterdam restaurant in the Netherlands. They have come together for an uncomfortable conversation. One of the brothers, Serge, is a famous politician while the other brother, Paul, is a “retired” history teacher. The brothers don’t get along.  As the story unfolds, you learn that Paul, the narrator, actually loathes his older brother and can’t understand how his sister-in-law can tolerate him. Their 15-year old sons, however, do get along, and it is discovered that they have done something extremely awful, which is the reason for this uncomfortable dinner. The boys’ actions are so shocking that the whole nation is upset after seeing video footage of the incident on the nightly news. The boys’ identities are not generally known because their faces were never seen. However, the parents do know what their sons have done.  As the dinner progresses, it’s amazing and alarming to see how far these families will go to protect their children, even when they have committed a crime. This is a very quick read because, as the tension in the story builds between each course, you don’t want to stop reading until you see how these two very different families deal with their compulsion that their children can do no wrong.

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