The Dinner (eBook & Audio)

[Updated a few hours after posting when I thought of something I meant to add…]

Thoughts tdbyhk The Dinner by Herman Koch, Hogarth · Imprint of Crown Publishing Group Ltd / Random House 2013 (orig 2009), Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett, 304 pages eBook

tdbyhkaudio AudioGo 2013, Narrated by Clive Mantle, 8 Hours 55 Minutes

For the PARTY category of What’s in a Name 6 Challenge.

Three words:  Disturbing, Alarming, Haughty (not sure a book can be haughty but the main character/narrator certainly could be described as ‘blatantly and disdainfully proud’.)

When Marie told me via Twitter that this is a ‘tough read’ and ‘is disturbing’, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And when I had heard comparisons to Gone Girl, I was most intrigued. I loved Gone Girl!

Well, this one I did NOT love. Yes, it IS disturbing. The narrator of the story (not the narrator of the audio!  The fictional character) is condescending and thoroughly unlikable. He comes across very angry, in a way that you know he admires himself on how well he keeps himself in control.

Yea, well. I didn’t like him.

So it was hard to like the book. I would not say I enjoyed it. In fact, for some parts, I felt physically ill.

None of the characters have much going for them, in my opinion.

(Marie’s review is excellent, by the way. She says it is ‘masterfully written’. In fact, she argues for ONE sympathetic character and I will grant her the explanation as valid.)

As for the audio… Narrator is British and did an excellent job. He certainly was able to sound haughty and condescending. I wasn’t too impressed with one of his female voices but it was near the end of the book when I noticed it. Whispersync only worked about half the time, but it IS cool to bounce back and forth from audio to print and be immediately at the spot where you left off. I went back and forth a LOT. Sometimes, the audio was too slow for the pace of the story, if that makes sense. I kept wanting Mr. Lohman (did we ever get his first name? Serge’s brother, Claire’s husband, Michel’s father) to STOP thinking outloud and tell me what is GOING ON.

This book counts as one that happens on ONE DAY. I’m sort of collecting them.

I wrestled with giving it a two stars but also wavered with 4 stars precisely because I do think a book that provokes me so much has something powerful to credit. So I compromised with three. Three slices of CREAM pie. With blackberries, since a dessert in the story provokes one of the characters to push it away.

“Even if this head were to be pelted with rotten eggs, the smile had to remain intact. Even behind the remains of a cream pie pressed into his face by an angry activist, the smile could never, ever fade from the voters’ view.”  -p.33, 12%

Also, another reason this book hit me a bit hard was due to a post I read (and reposted) on Facebook and linked here from the blog source:  Accidental Devotional’s “The Day I Taught How Not to Rape”. Thank you Jeanne for sharing.

The post talks about how we think teenagers should KNOW about respect. And sex. And what is rape. And all the other things we think nice responsible people should  know. And this book also addresses this exact question of whether or not teenagers are CHILDREN or ADULTS. We want to assume they ‘know better’; how do we handle these tough situations when they do not ‘know better’.

p.63 – CHANSONS – song, specifically a music-hall or cabaret song
p.64 – FRÈRE – French for ‘brother’ (figured it out from context but like to make sure)
p.76 – SLIP DE BAIN – French for ‘swim suit’
p.285 – EXCRESCENCES – disfiguring, extraneous or unwanted marks or parts

Question for my Dutch friends – The audio says something that the book wouldn’t clarify but it translated as GAS CAN. It sounded like JELLY can. Explain? Thanks!  ***THANKS Laurie! The answer is JERRYCAN. I am a much more visual learner and really needed to see how the word was spelled so I could accurately hear it. NOW I get it!


Copyright © 2007-2013. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

25 thoughts on “The Dinner (eBook & Audio)

  1. I read this a long time ago and want to re-read it just to remember the details. What a pity you didn’t really like it. I remember thinking this was a good book. I probably would have given it 4 stars.

    I have no idea what the jelly/gas can is about. None!

  2. I will be reading this one, probably next month. I’ve had it for way too long! Sorry it was on the disturbing side. Doesn’t sound as if you enjoyed that aspect of it. Who does??

  3. Yikes! I also heard the comparisons to Girl Gone, which is why I wanted to read it. The Books on the Nightstand podcasters also raved about it. I’ll give it a shot when and if it turns up at the library!

    So, not so pleasant for you, but maybe a good book club choice? Books that provoke a strong reaction often make for good discussions at least.

  4. I recently read a book that made me occasionally feel physically ill (Purple Hibiscus) and so, so angry at the cruelty and hypocrisy of the abusive father but it was still a good read. So, I’ll try The Dinner. If I can’t take it, no biggie. I’m old enough not to feel like I have to finish everything I start. I’ll consider your review due warning.

    1. Well, one book club member decided that she didn’t need to read it – after our spoilerful discussion. Though most seemed to think it was a ‘good book’, average was probably 3-4 stars.

    1. I respect your decision. So many good books in the world we will never read, why take the chance on this one, imo. (But I would be glad to tell you the dirty specific via email if you want! I’m awful like that 😉 )

  5. Just read another review that recommended this and now yours. What’s a girl to do??? Perhaps I will pick it up precisely because it’s thought provoking and got such a reaction from you. But I’m giving myself permission to DNF it if, also based on your review!

  6. Hi, I’m back to comment, after not reading your post too closely because I hadn’t listened to The Dinner yet. Better late than never? It was very disturbing. I think I was expecting more of a Who’s-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf kind of dinner conversation. I forgot you reviewed the audio, and will add a link to my review. (Now I know why it was necessary to catch the word “jerrycan”, too.)

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