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The Dinner

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3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  96,521 Ratings  ·  13,878 Reviews
An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives -- all over the course of one meal.

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conv
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Mass Market Paperback, 309 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Atlantic Books (first published January 2009)
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G Tremblay There's several genetic disorders associated with a tendency to violence, including "Brunner's syndrome," a genetic deficiency in an enzyme (monoamine…moreThere's several genetic disorders associated with a tendency to violence, including "Brunner's syndrome," a genetic deficiency in an enzyme (monoamine oxidase A) discovered in large Dutch family. Those individuals were not only violence-prone but were also mildly retarded, which does not describe Paul or his son. It is possible this disease inspired the author, who took liberties with the science. Asperger's has no specific genetic marker, nor does the borderline personality disorder, autism, or sociopathy--nothing that enables prenatal diagnosis yet. Some individuals with extra sex chromosomes (XYY "super males," are prone to violence, but they are also retarded (which says something about male-ness, perhaps)). My guess is that the author was intentionally a bit vague about the precise diagnosis, was thinking of Brunner's syndrome loosely, but he merely wanted to raise the theme of responsibility when one's behavior is influenced by one's genes (or, similarly, brain injury or past abuse). Responsibility--a cultural attitude that changes with time--for misbehavior or crimes may or may not take into consideration the actor's nature and nurture. Some cultures give these factors more consideration than others. Sociopathy has been suggested, and it's interesting that even sociopathy is thought by some to be the result of a mental defect--a deficiency of empathy. The US criminal law mostly glosses over all this biology and heredity: if you understand the difference between right and wrong, and you do a bad deed, you're responsible. (less)
Christina
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Community Reviews

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Mark
Nov 11, 2012 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hated this book! It felt contrived and stilted. I didn't like any of the characters. I couldn't identify with any of them. None of the dialogue was believable. The situation was farcical (why would you go to a super-expensive, elite restaurant to talk about such a private matter?). The whole book was about protecting the kids from their own actions - their was no sense of personal responsibility, no remorse, no soul searching. The narrator was a violent thug who just whined incessantly the whole ...more
karen

so this is probably a safe bet for people who liked Gone Girl. in other words, not you, richard. but it is not nearly as twisty and satisfying as g.g., methinks.

it has the moral bankruptcy of Gone Girl, the shallow people, banal small talk and heavily-done descriptive elements of American Psycho, and the "we are here to talk about our delinquent kids but it isn't going to go well" scenario of The God of Carnage. and why yes, i have only seen the film adaptation, thank you for asking.

the whole t
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Delee
I really detested every character in this book (with the exception of Serge, him I just disliked). I hated the ending with every fiber of my being. I found myself wanting to put it down numerous times, and I felt physically ill when I realized where the ending was going....and yet I didn't hate the book itself. I actually went back and forth about whether to give it three stars or four stars for quite awhile. If it was possible I would give it 3 1/2 stars, so lets just say I did.

I am going to l
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Emily May
“That’s the oppressive thing about happiness, the way everything is out on the table like an open book.”

When you look at the "rating details" for every widely-read book on Goodreads, you will almost always see most ratings being 5 or 4 stars. Even when it comes to divisive books like Fifty Shades of Grey, 60% of the ratings are for 4 or 5 stars.

Now look at the ratings for The Dinner. There are an overwhelming number of 3 star ratings (more than any other). And I get why. This is the kind of
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Noeleen
Mar 24, 2013 Noeleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Wall Street Journal has tagged The Dinner as ‘the European Gone Girl’. I beg to differ and I think that this book should more appropriately be tagged ‘the European Defending Jacob'...but hey who am I to question The Wall Street Journal! The Dinner tells the story of two families, the parents of which meet each other over dinner one evening in an exclusive restaurant in Amsterdam. At the heart of the story is a horrific crime which both sons within each family hold equal responsibility.

Koch h
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Jason
Mar 17, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It occurred to me by the end that this is a fascist novel. Not in the sense that the author is fascist or anything of the sort, but rather like pointing to a certain book and recognizing that it's a feminist novel, or a queer novel, or a Southern novel, or what have you. In 'The Dinner' we have a situation in which the narrator, through a long illuminating story, reveals to the reader the picture of what a secret contempt of all things “weak” or “inferior”—formulated into an ideology and informi ...more
Petra Eggs
Update 3 July 2015 If you've read the book and thought nothing like that could ever really happen, read the news. It chilled me to the bone. If you haven't read it, it's not so much a spoiler because the book is different. Kind of.

I have tried to be oblique but anything I say will ruin the book if you are going to read it, so (view spoiler)
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Jennifer Bock
Sep 27, 2013 Jennifer Bock rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Jennifer by: multiple friends
This may have been one of the worst books I have ever read. I will confess that generally I want to have at least one character that I like. But it's not always necessary. If the plot or situation enthralls me in such a way that I am compelled to keep reading, then I'm happy to. This book however, I kept reading because every review that I read and every recommendation I got from friends said how fabulous this book was. I read to the end hoping it would get better. I hated it.
I hated the fact t
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Elizabeth
Edit :: added spoiler alert per GR member request.

(view spoiler)

Carol
Dec 24, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm a huge fan of books that explore how far we'll go for those we love, particularly our children. When Hogarth Publishers agreed to send me the e-galley of The Dinner I was ecstatic. It's due to be published in the states in February 2013.

This is a book that begs eating metaphors so I'll try to spare you but it won't be easy.

The Dinner is laid out in courses, from aperitif to digestif and is excellently plotted. You learn early on that this dinner is not the typical happy family outing. Brot
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Carmen
Sep 08, 2014 Carmen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Will M.
Apr 29, 2014 Will M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Gillian Flynn
I can consider this one of the few messed up novels that amazed me by its darkness. Some of the other ones were Gone Girl and Dark Places, so I guess I do have to agree with the blurb from Wall street journal stating that this is a European Gone Girl.

This is one of those circumstances wherein I'm glad I didn't listen to the bad reviews, and the low overall rating of the novel. Opinions vary, so stick with your gut. If the novel seems like something you'd enjoy, then don't hesitate to give it a
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Justin
Jul 17, 2016 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a fun dinner experience that was!

Everything was going so well during drinks and appetizers. Just a nice meal in a super fancy restaurant. Luckily, Serge knew people since he was a politician and all, maybe even the next prime minister! The first third of the book was just that... appetizers, whetting my appetite for the delicious main course. Pages and pages of beautiful descriptions, subtle humor, not so subtle humor, and casual conversation. The whole book could have stayed right the
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RandomAnthony
May 07, 2013 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I understand comparing a book to Gone Girl will push sales, so yay for that comparison plastered on every The Dinner reference. But seriously, motherfuckers, this novel is more like Flynn's Sharp Objects and, in my eyes, better than Gone Girl. So let's stop talking about Gone Girl, even though I liked that book, because, you know, there are other books in the goddamn universe and I'm trying to review one as we speak.

The Dinner's main character is an angry, reflective guy out at a restaurant with
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Debbie "DJ"
This is the book that should have said, "If you liked Gone Girl..." And, after reading some reviews, maybe it did, and I just never saw it. For me, this book is a top notch psychological thriller.

Two couples meet at a posh restaurant for dinner, arriving to discuss some type of problem with their children. The two couples are Paul, and his wife Clair, and Serge (Paul's brother), and his wife Babette. Paul is the single narrator of this story and he recounts much of his past as each course of din
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Raeleen Lemay
I enjoyed this, but a lot of the events weren't ever fully explained and that bugged me quite a bit. It's definitely twisted and leaves a bit to the imagination, but it left me wanting more unfortunately.
Lala BooksandLala
Apr 09, 2017 Lala BooksandLala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
what a vile little book.
Diane
Wow, lots to unpack here.

This is a novel that has been sitting on my shelf for several years, and I finally pulled it down in a good-faith effort to read more of the books I already own. I don't remember why I was so interested in this that I bought a copy, so I skimmed some reviews to jog my memory. I saw everything from 1 star to 5 stars from Goodreads friends, with some very heated comments about the characters and the story. It lowered my expectations, and I felt ready to tackle this book.

B
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Paul Bryant
Dec 21, 2016 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
They say, do they not, that The Dinner is the European Gone Girl. Mais non! I say. I threw GG at the wall after around page 100 with some force, but I finished The Dinner with a distinct smacking of the chops and dabbing of the napkin, so that’s a big difference. Both books are about extremely irritating people, it must be admitted. But the plot swerves in GG are more than a little ridiculous and there for the standard lo-cal thriller effect, whereas I thought the disturbed and frankly nasty per ...more
Stephanie
Quirky Psychological Thriller with Despicable Characters

The Dinner by Herman Koch is set in Amsterdam and primarily takes place in an upscale restaurant over a multi-course dinner. I picked this book up because it was a thriller available on Overdrive when I wanted to read something different. I am aware that the reviews are all over the board on this work -- from gushing 5-star "this is the European Gone Girl" to bleak 1-star "waste of time". My opinion falls in the middle of the spectrum.
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Frankie
May 14, 2013 Frankie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, netherlands
Was different and interesting and kept me reading. But I probs wouldnt read again.
Dem
Apr 08, 2013 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dinner by Herman is certainly a quirky and entertaining read and if you like dark, quirky and different then this one may be for you. I really enjoyed this novel, it certainly packs a punch.

Take two families, a dinner setting and a couple dangerously delinquent sons and a very disturbing act of criminality that has shocked the nation and you have yourself the plot of a very well written novel.

A word of warning! Not every reader is going to love this one...............so if you dislike storie
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Laurel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenna
This book was truly a five course meal, well metaphorically speaking. I love smart writing and nothing was lost in translation for me. I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it and I devoured it in a 24-hour period. It was yummy!
Michael
A clever tale, but I failed to care much in its outcome. The immediacy of a family dinner between two brothers and their wives, with their catty and vicious maneuvering, sets us up into thinking this is just a social satire of classism and family jealousies. But then threads of the past and compelling needs to make important decisions affecting the future fate of their children casts the tapestry into darker colors, and the facades start to sag.

Initially, the reader joins in on the snide thought
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Matthew
Jun 14, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this unique adventure into the mind (view spoiler). As the story progresses, his neurosis becomes clearer and clearer. Also, the bizarre stories of all the characters and the lengths they will go to to "protect" their family had me drawn in and shaking my head the whole time.

In the end, who is more unstable, (view spoiler)?
orsodimondo
Nov 25, 2012 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: olanda
IL CONTO NON PAGATO
Il romanzo ha un suo percorso, ho attraversato fasi diverse leggendolo: ho cominciato detestando abbastanza l’io narrante, saccente oltre misura, uno di quelli che sembrano misurarsi quotidianamente con dio (forse perché, come disse Woody Allen, se devi avere un modello da seguire, perché non scegliere il migliore? – più o meno era così, in un film di tanti anni fa, cito a memoria).
Però, è difficile superare il meccanismo d’identificazione, e quindi, come all’omodiegetico pro
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Diane S ☔
Dec 18, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First book that I have rated so highly even though I did not like any of the characters. This is a book of moral complexity narrated by an unreliable narrator, who at first seems to take the politeness and political correctness out of all conversations at dinner. He does this basically inside himself, not outside where any can hear but he is extremely skeptical of almost everything. From the beginning the reader knows this is not going to be a lighthearted dinner between siblings, the tension is ...more
Glenn Sumi
Oct 24, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-usa-can-uk
There’s a bit too much on the menu in this wickedly fun psychological thriller from bestselling Dutch author Herman Koch.

But he’s such a good writer (which comes through in the smooth translation), and his narrator is so savagely funny, insightful and demented that the entire thing goes down like an excellent meal – with a slightly nasty aftertaste because of the subject matter.

Two middle-aged couples dine out at an expensive Amsterdam restaurant. As they go through each extravagant, rather absu
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Pattie
Feb 24, 2013 Pattie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't wait for this book to be publshed in the U.S. but I wound up being very disappointed in it. To begin with, the character who narrates the book comes across as petty, childish, and irritating from the opening pages. He was never a sympathetic character, although I believe he initially was supposed to be, in comparison to his brother. The brother, a boorish, pompous and larger than life figure, actually had more heart in the long run. In addition, I didn't find it believable that these ...more
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  • De overgave
  • Tirza
  • The Twins
  • Mevrouw Verona daalt de heuvel af
  • The Two Hotel Francforts
  • Bonita Avenue
  • De passievrucht
  • Schroder
  • The Assault
  • The Angel Maker
  • The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
  • Das Wüten der ganzen Welt
  • Joe Speedboot
  • Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked
  • Komt een vrouw bij de dokter
  • The Twin
  • Lijmen / Het Been
  • The Engagement
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Herman Koch (1953) is known as a television producer and a writer. The book 'Het diner', published in 2009, was his breakthrough in the Netherlands. It was published in 17 countries. It was partly based on a true story involving a homeless woman named, María del Rosario Endrinal Petit, in Barcelona (Spain), in December 2005.

Koch was born in Arnhem, and later moved to Amsterdam. He studied Russian
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More about Herman Koch...

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“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.” 83 likes
“If I had to give a definition of happiness, it would be this: happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.” 36 likes
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