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