Dinner (Koch)

The Dinner
Herman Koch, 2009 (the Netherlands), 2013 (USA)
Crown Publishing
304 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780770437855



Summary
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 conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse—the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—September 5, 1953
Raised—Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Education—N/A
Awards—Publieksprijs (the Netherlands)
Currently—lives in Amsterdam


Herman Koch is a Dutch writer and actor. He has written short stories, novels, and columns. His best-selling novel The Dinner (2009) has been translated into 21 languages. He has acted for radio, television, and film. He co-created the long-running TV series Jiskefet (1990–2005).

Koch was born in Arnhem, Netherlands. His family moved to Amsterdam when he was two years old. He went to the Montessori Lyceum Amsterdam from which he was expelled. Although his native language is Dutch, he also speaks English, German, and Spanish.

Acting
Koch is an actor for radio, television, and film. He contributed to the comedy show Borat (1984–1989) for radio. Together with Kees Prins and Michiel Romeyn, Koch created the long-running absurdist and satiric series Jiskefet (1990–2005; Trash Can) for television, in which he also acted. And he played minor roles in the movie The Flying Liftboy (1998), the 2000 TV series of the same name, and Voetbalvrouwen (2007; Footballers' Wives).

Writing
Koch is the author of short stories, novels, and columns. His debut was De voorbijganger (1985; The Passerby) a collection of short stories. His first novel was Red ons, Maria Montanelli (1989; Save Us, Maria Montanelli). In 2005, Koch wrote the text for the Grand Dictation of the Dutch Language.

His sixth novel was Het diner (2009; The Dinner), which was translated into 21 languages including English, has sold over one million copies throughout Europe and won the 2009 NS Audience award (Dutch: NS Publieksprijs). A Dutch play of The Dinner was in theaters in 2012, and a Dutch movie version was released in 2013. An English language adaptation to be directed by Cate Blanchett was announced in 2013.

Kock released Summer House with Swimming Pool in 2014.

Personal life
Koch is married to Amalia Rodriguez, and they have a son Pablo. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 6/1/2014.)



Book Reviews
A European Gone Girl…. The Dinner, a sly psychological thriller that hinges on a horrific crime and its consequences for two families, has become one of spring’s most anticipated suspense novels.
Wall Street Journal
 

[The Dinner] proves how powerful fiction can be in illuminating the modern world.... The reader does not rise from his table happy and replete so much as stand up suddenly, pale and reeling. Bored with Fifty Shades of Grey and all that brouhaha? Read The Dinner—and taste the shock.
Economist


(Starred review.) [A] witty look at contemporary manners...before turning into a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller.... With dark humor, Koch dramatizes the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life. Despite a few too-convenient contrivances, this is a cunningly crafted thriller that will never allow you to look at a serviette in the same way again
Publishers Weekly


An international best seller as winner of the Publieksprijs prize, this book features two couples at a posh restaurant in Amsterdam chatting politely before finally addressing the real issue: their teenage sons have been caught on film in a gruesome criminal act that has shaken the nation.
Library Journal


Mesmerizing and disturbing…fast-paced and addictive…The Dinner, already a bestseller in Europe, is sure to find an enthusiastic American readership as well.
BookPage


A high-class meal provides an unlikely window into privilege, violence and madness. Paul, the narrator of this caustic tale...prepare[s] for a pricey dinner with his brother and sister-in-law.... The mood is mysteriously tense in the opening chapters, as the foursome talk around each other.... Koch's slow revelation of the central crisis is expertly paced, and he's opened up a serious question of what parents owe their children, and how much of their character is passed on to them. At its best, a chilling vision of the ugliness of keeping up appearances.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. How did your opinion of Paul and Serge shift throughout the novel? How might the story line have unfolded if it had been told from a mother’s point of view?

2. In what way do the courses of a meal—from aperitif to digestif—echo the experience of savoring a suspenseful novel? As the waiter described each delicacy in The Dinner, did the food appeal to you, or did you share Paul’s belief that it was pretentious?

3. What do you think of the sympathy Paul and Claire feel for their son? As a parent, how far would you go to defend your child?

4. Do Michel and Rick represent the indifference of their generation, or are teenagers more socially conscious in the Information Age?

5. How much influence do Claire and Babette have over their husbands? How do they define good mothering?

6. The novel opens with Paul’s commentary on how much Serge irritates him. What accounts for their attitude toward each other? Does Paul’s animosity run deeper than typical sibling rivalry?

7. Discuss Paul’s and Serge’s career paths. What does it take to succeed in politics compared with succeeding in the classroom? What skills do the Lohman brothers share?

8. Ultimately, who is to blame for the homeless woman’s death? What does the novel indicate about the responsibilities (or irresponsibility) of the upper class? What separates sympathetic souls from heartless ones?

9. Discuss the portrait of a marriage that Paul paints as he recalls Claire’s illness and confronts the possibility of losing his family. Why is Claire so protective of Paul? What keeps their relationship going?

10. In chapter 30, we see the details of Paul’s approach to history and humanity. As you watched him lose his teaching job, did you perceive him as someone who is ill or simply selfish? Or rational?

11. What does the story of cousins Michel and Rick say about nature versus nurture? How do you think Beau/Faso sees his adoptive family? What have they taught him about getting ahead?

12. How did you react to Claire and Michel’s “solution”?

13. What commentary does the novel offer about the author’s homeland? What aspects of The Dinner would change if it were set in Washington, DC, rather than in the Netherlands?
(Guide written by Amy Clements and issued by the publisher.)

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