The Dinner

The Dinner, Herman Koch

The international bestseller from Dutch writer/actor Herman Koch has made it to English and looks set to be this year’s The Slap, though less crude and more focused than that book was. The book is set at a dinner for four – the narrator Paul, his brother and both of their wives – in an upmarket restaurant somewhere in Holland (Paul is careful not to name precise locations in the course of his narrative). The four have met to discuss an incident involving their teenage sons which featured on the Dutch equivalent of Crimewatch. So far the boys have remained unidentified by the police and the public at large; only their parents have recognised them from the hazy security camera footage. What would you do?

This book is a book club must. Even if your club is inclined to veer off topic, there is so much to ponder here that almost anywhere you veer will be to the point: nature v nurture; racism, political correctness; justice; morality; technology; waiters in posh restaurants . . . The list is endless. It’s a book you’ll fly through quite easily. The content is more interesting than the style (and there’s an American feel to the translation that screams, ‘Screenplay, please!’), but the questions it raises will remain with you for a long time after you finish reading.

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