Its a summers 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 discoursethe 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 actan 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 shows 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.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: A good unreliable narrator is one of the most satisfying characters a novelist can dream up--and Herman Koch takes us on a hell of a ride through the mind of Paul Lohman, the deliciously sinister host of The Dinner. Paul's 15-year-old son, Michel, has committed an unspeakable crime; his brother, on the cusp of becoming the Netherlands' next prime minister, has a delicate wife and two teenagers who share Michel’s secret; Paul's wife, Claire, will do anything to protect their boy. As the two couples inch through an excruciating meal at a chic restaurant--their children's whereabouts uncertain--Paul peels back the layers of their situation, weaving to and fro through time and truth. Koch's finely structured story gives away just enough on each page to keep us riveted, feeling like private investigators on the verge of discovery, until the shock of an ending. It's no small feat for the author that the less we trust Paul, the more we want to hear what he has to say. --Mia Lipman