Books Magazine

How Many Courses?

By Crossstitchyourheart @TMNienaber

Review of The Dinner by Herman Koch

How Many Courses?
If there was ever a book that turned out to be nothing like I thought it would, it would be “The Dinner.” I guess I expected for it to be a little more mysterious in a noir-detective novel kind of way. Or that the crime would be a little less…disturbing. Or that the characters would be a little more traditional. I wasn’t at all disappointed with the novel, but it ended up being more serious than I’d anticipated.

Two brothers and their wives are coming together

How Many Courses?
to discuss a problem between their sons but no one wants to be the first to bring the issue up. The two couples dance around the issue all dinner, wondering who knows what, if the stories are different, or if the they’ll be on the same page once they finally decide to start talking. The story takes place not just in one day but over the course of one meal, with each course bringing it’s own set of issues, arguments, and problems.

Of course, the problem isn’t over yet either, as layers continue to be added to an already tragic, and controversial trouble.

Initially I couldn’t find any of these characters very relatable but as the story progresses throughout the dinner Koch begins to reveal new layers to his characters. It’s like each course strips them down a layer until you arrive at dessert and the characters are standing in front of you wearing nothing but their

How Many Courses?
basest desire for survival and protection.

The crime this story surrounds is impossible to talk about without giving anything away, but it’s a numbing one. Each parent is faced with the decision of how to protect their child, or if their child even deserves their protection anymore. It raises interesting questions, the kind you’ll be thinking about even after you’ve finished the book.

How would your sense of right and wrong change if you were forced to make a choice that could cost your child their freedom?What would you be willing to overlook?

What would you be willing to cover up?

As the novel is set over the course of just one dinner I’d suggest carving out a weekend/day off when you have nothing better to do and try to read it all at once, splitting it up over multiple days or weeks seemed to take away from the cleverly crafted building of suspense…and you’ll want to know how it ends.

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