Melanie's Reviews > The Dinner List

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
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it was ok
bookshelves: romance, buddy-reads, read-in-2018, adult, contemporary

This was my pick for the August 2018 Book of the Month box!

“I love you, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy.”

Friends, I wanted to love this so much. And at first, this really did feel like watching a lucid dream play out, and I felt so enthralled and captivated! But as time went on, I just cared less and less about the dinner, about the past, and about this book.

The Dinner List is a play on the conversation starter of which five people would you bring to a dinner party, dead or alive? And our main character, Sabrina, is living that reality on her thirtieth birthday this December. We get thrown into a present day restaurant with her and the five people she chose, while the chapters alternate between her past and a romance that has completely consumed her life for almost a decade.

Audrey Hepburn -I mean, she’s pretty self-explanatory. But besides being Sabrina’s namesake, her movies also held a high importance in some pivotal moments in Sabrina’s life.
Professor Conrad - A college professor who I guess made a big impact on her. I’ll be honest, I kept waiting for “more” with this dinner guest choice.
Robert - The father that she never knew, because he left when she was little.
Jessica - Her best friend throughout most of her life.
Tobias - The greatest love of her life. And again, this story is truly about why he is at this dinner and why they aren’t currently together.

“But it's also not an easy thing to be married to darkness. Eventually I dimmed so far I extinguished.”

Yet, the constant theme of this book is fate and how a ripple effect can really change our lives because of a few choices we made while not really even thinking. I mean, I know this is true of my life, and I’m sure for most of you. Yet, we get to see Sabrina’s play out more and more between each alternating chapter.

As I read through more and more of the story, I felt more captivated by the chapters set in the past and found the present dinner chapters much less enjoyable. Especially with the friend Jessica. I honestly started to hate her towards the end of the book, which I’m not sure will be a mutual feeling with more readers, or not.

I mean, this entire book is trying to talk about how none of us are perfect, and how we all make mistakes. But, man, Jessica just felt like such a bad friend throughout this entire novel. Like, she had no redeeming qualities for me, like everyone else at the table did.

“All we needed was to stay this close. Right up against each other, without any space between us. If we did that, we were good. It was just the world—with all its loud chaos, its demands and people and air—that made us fight…””

But I will also be honest and say that I disliked Sabrina and Tobias more, too. I feel like this just really isn't the healthiest depiction of love. And I get that love can be messy, and complicated, and hard to even put into words, but you have to be happy. You can’t keep settling, over and over, because you’re scared of upsetting your partner. I will say that I don’t even know what Sabrina ever truly wanted, but I never once thought her and Tobias had anything remotely healthy. Sex and cuddling are important, but you have to be able to count on the person you’re sharing your life with. And that doesn’t have an age limit and shouldn’t be glossed over like, “oh they just don’t want to grow up!” I’ve seen sixteen-year-olds in healthier relationships than them. And you never, ever, have to lose something to know it’s worth and value. Miss me with that garbage thinking.

Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. And I hope if you pick it up that you’ll enjoy it more than I did. I also recommend reading this in close to one or two sittings for a better experience. I almost think me putting it down for fifty pages at a time did me a disservice even more, since the story really does have a “dream like” quality to it, and I was probably making it feel more jarring than it needed to be.

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Content and trigger warnings for abandonment, talk of alcoholism, talk of cheating, talk of miscarrying, talk of unhealthy dieting, talk of cancer, and loss of a loved one.

Buddy read with Caidyn at BW Reviews! ❤
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Reading Progress

August 1, 2018 – Shelved
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
August 1, 2018 – Shelved as: romance
September 9, 2018 – Started Reading
September 9, 2018 – Shelved as: buddy-reads
September 9, 2018 – Shelved as: read-in-2018
September 14, 2018 – Shelved as: adult
September 14, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary
September 14, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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message 1: by Ari (new)

Ari I also picked this as my August book of the month! I am so excited to read it! :))

Courtney Calhoun This was my pick as well!

Melanie Ari K wrote: "I also picked this as my August book of the month! I am so excited to read it! :))"

Yayyyy! I hope we both love it, Ari! 💖xx

Melanie Courtney wrote: "This was my pick as well!"

Yessss! Happy reading, Courtney love! 💖xx

Jessica Me too 😄

Melanie Jessica wrote: "Me too 😄"

I hope you enjoy it, love! Happy reading! 💖xx

message 7: by Becca (new)

Becca Goldberg You’re review is spot on. I found the dinner annoying and interfering with the story of Sabrina and Tobias. However, midway through the book, I didn’t even care about them. I felt exhausted reading this book. I’m happy that it was a short read.

Navaaay This was my pick too, I’m reading it now

Patricia Austin This was also my August BOM pick!!! I just started reading it today though. It has caught my attention so far!

Alysse I agree with a lot of your review. I also found the relationship with Jessica annoying but for different reasons. I felt more annoyed with the Sabrina because she didn't seem to take any responsibility in the distance created and blamed everything on Jessica (who was kind of a bitch) but she seemed frustrated with this fantasy life that Sabrina created and get refusal to see reality.

On the other hand I agree with you about the relationship with Tobias. However, I think that was the point of the novel. I think that the author was pointing to the fact that sometimes we think love has to be complicated or messy but where is the line where it becomes unhealthy? Sabrina missed it and she was working through how the relationship wasn't perfect and that he wasn't the greatest love of her life.

message 11: by MARY (new) - rated it 2 stars

MARY SWAN-BELL I couldn’t agree more. The only people I liked were Audrey, Conrad and Robert.

Lucia I'm almost half way through it and I'm not very interested at all. Having Audrey there I feel is kind of a cliché. But it seems like it's one of the most beloved characters so we will see. But so far I feel it's a bunch of dilettantes trying to sound intellectual and not saying much at all.

Rachel I agree with you 100%. I loved it at first, got to page 100 and I was done. Characters stopped developing and the story just became meh. I didn't care anymore. It would have been much better if written about the 2 main characters and how they came to be where they are at now.

Annie I stopped reading about halfway through. It was just... pointless. No huge insights were obtained and I didn't like Sabrina or Tobias.

Kassandra I totally agree with your review. I hated Jessica towards the end.

Kaitlyn Same!

Mario Molna I completely agree with you on almost your entire account except that I didn't see their relationship as unhealthy, but rather realistic, trying to navigate the complexities of what life throws at you. But I pretty much share your exact sentiment about the book. At first I was really liking it then got less interested as the story went on. I found it perplexing that the dinner guests were really not that important to the overall story line, which was about Tobias and Sabrina. But I'm glad I'm not alone with a 2 star review!

message 18: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Moneagle I agree totally - the premise had potential but the story didn’t live up to it.

Jamie I kept trying to read this. It would lay on a table for a couple day always with the inclination to read more. I just could not finish it. Then I finally read the last 2 chapters & thought, “ I should’ve quit trying days ago”. Hope someone else enjoys it more than me

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