Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Dinner - Herman Koch (Audio)

I follow many blogs, as most of you do, and will pick up a recommendation from just about anyone. But there are a few people who, when they love something, make it virtually impossible to ignore the plea.  Marie at Boston Bibliophile is one of them.  She reads smart books, and she is discerning, so her rave reviews cause me to take notice.  "The Dinner" was one such review.  It took a good solid three months for me to get it on audio from my library, so obviously Marie wasn't the only one in love with it.


Synopsis:  Two couples meet for an extravagant dinner one evening in Amsterdam.  One of the couples is Paul Lohman, our narrator and a retired school teacher, and his wife Claire.  The other couple is Paul's brother Serge, the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and his wife Babette.  Paul feels a great amount of disdain for his brother and sister-in-law, primarily for their success and the public flaunting of such, in a restaurant like this where it takes three months to obtain a reservation...unless you are Serge, that is.  But annoyance aside, the couples are there for a reason:  to discuss the issue of their 15 year-old sons.

As the two couples make their way through the excruciating courses of the meal, we receive the back story of each couple and their kids, as well as experience the explosive dynamics between the members of the group.  The facts are hesitantly and slowly revealed by Paul, who, as time passes, becomes more and more unreliable.

All in the time it takes to eat a four-course meal, we are subjected to a mosh pit of envy...envy between siblings, envy between spouses, envy of youth, envy of wealth and power.  What lengths would a parent go to protect their child?  How much will you sacrifice for a career?  What are our biases and secret prejudices?

My thoughts:  Consider me gobsmacked.  I love it when I read a book and never know what the HELL is going to come around the corner.  This is probably why "The Dinner" is being compared to "Gone Girl".  Our narrator is not to be trusted, and with every chapter, he lets a thing or two slip that causes you to do a double-take.  But really that is where the similarities end.

Beyond the twisty-turny psychotic blow-by-blow of this dinner, there is a depth that causes you to stop and think.  When I first started the story, I was drawn into the dark, satiric commentary on the pretentious lives of the rich.  It made me laugh.  It was clever.  But then Paul got his freak on, and we went a little deeper.  Racial prejudice.  Parental competition.  Violence.  Politics.  Mental illness.  Genetic disposition.  I could go on and on.  Book clubs will have a hay day with this one.  I was disturbed, I was entertained, I couldn't stop listening.

A few words about the audio production:  This audio was narrated by Clive Mantle, a new voice for me.  It appears he narrates children's books, which caused me to chuckle.  Well, Mr. Mantle certainly has a darker side!  He was an absolute delight to listen to.  He has a pleasant, melodic British accent but it is laced with snark and sarcasm and duplicity.  Fabulous.  I'd love to hear him again.

Listening length:  8 hours, 55 minutes (304 pages)

5 out of 5 stars
  

20 comments:

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I've seen a dozen reviews of this, but wasn't that interested. Now I have to read it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I must get this also!

Beth F said...

This has been on my radar ... You have convinced me to track it down.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, you've made this sound wonderful! I have to say, though, that British accents don't always work on audio for me - quite often they sound monotone to me.

Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader said...

I've seen mixed reviews of this one and from what I can tell readers either love it or they hate it. I think I need to find out for myself!

Jackie Bailey said...

Clive Mantle? He is a famous actor over here and I'd love to hear him narrate a book.

I really enjoyed this one, but I wish the ending had been a bit more realistic. It would have made it far more scary if I believed it was possible for this to actually happen.

caite said...

Another 5? What, do you think I have nothing to do but consume books? Lol

Ti said...

I have it. I think I started it once but then got sidetracked. Must start it up again.

James Chester said...

Okay, I'm interested.

Kim said...

I read this. I'll bet it was better on audio.

JoAnn said...

Just got this as an e-book from the library... hope it's as good in print!

Carrie said...

Just picked this up from the library today!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I read this one a while ago and really liked it, but not quite a 5/5 like. Sounds like it worked better in audio!

Marie said...

Oh Sandy I am so glad you enjoyed this! And that you got a chance to listen. It sounds like a great audio production, too! :) Thanks for your kind words too! <3 <3

Iliana said...

Oh I'm so glad you blog about this book because I'd heard about it somewhere and promptly forgot. I really want to read this and if it's a 5 star review from you - it's on my list!

Jo-Jo said...

I agree with you...this one was quite amazing on audio!

Anna said...

You've certainly made me curious about this one. I like books that mess with my mind, they keep me on my toes. ;)

Julie P. said...

So need this one! My friend said many of the same things you did about this novel!

Darlene said...

I just got this audio from the library so I'm thrilled to see you give it five stars. I can't wait to get to it now!

Melissa said...

I only skimmed your review because I'm listening to this one now, but I absolutely love it. The narration is FABULOUS!