The Dinner

  The Dinner - Herman Koch  5/5 stars
                                                                   
                                                           



      Have you ever read a book and then sat and thought about it for a minute trying to decide if you liked it or not? That's exactly what happened after I finished The Dinner. The book itself isn't hard to follow and the message itself is up for interpretation. How it leaves you feeling is where the trouble lies. Is that the mark of a good writer, or is it something else entirely? Koch has written a novel that leaves you exhausted and confused. I wanted to hate the Dinner. I wanted to throw it across the room quite a few times, but I was too invested to quit. I had to read it through to the end. Novels like these are complex, but not because of the plot. It's the characters. These aren't characters that you want to hang out with, and I don't even like them. They all have character flaws and are quite despicable. Not just one or two characters mind you. Each and everyone of them.

      Koch has written a novel that you will either love or hate. There's no middle ground here and I like that he had built the novel around them and one very sinister event that binds them all together. One crime that could destroy the futures of their children. You would think that would be simple enough, but throughout the novel you see glimpses of who Paul really is, and maybe the illness he has has been spread to his son. Paul tells the story as if he's indifferent to it all. He glosses over facts and tries to make himself to be the victim at times which doesn't really hold a lot of water when you see what he's capable of. I guess the question here is what would you do to protect your child. What if he's done something so bad that maybe, just maybe you shouldn't protect him at all. The wild card here is Claire. She at first seems to be the most level headed of them all, but looks can be deceiving can't they?

      Highly controversial, and not your typical paint by numbers fiction It's a very dark, but engrossing story that works in spite of the characters. It's a dark, yet gripping novel that doesn't want you to have a clear cut love for it. It settles in and demands your attention and you end up enjoying it in spite of these horrible, and often boring characters. It's the story that makes it worth reading. Is it an easy to story to read? No, but that's why it's so good. Normal people don't act this way, and at times you can feel just a bit of anger begin to settle in over the course of Paul's narrative. In the end I ended up loving The Dinner because of its flawed characters and dark plot. Everyone is different of course and for every ten people that love this novel there's about twenty who truly loathe it and that's understandable. It's not for everyone. Some people want a true happy ending, or characters that aren't weak or so dis-likable.

      How you approach The Dinner is up to you. It's going to make you think, and it's sometimes going to test your patience, but doesn't great fiction do that? We all crave something different. We all want to read a novel that affects us and challenges us to see things from a darker perspective. If you're looking for a nice cozy book to pass a few hours this isn't for you. It's not a happy novel at all. That's what appealed to me. The darker aspects of the novel really showed why some of these characters behave the way they do. Does it make it right? No, but you at least have a reason. Novels sometimes take us places that we normally wouldn't go. Koch takes us into the darkness of human nature and that is where some people will throw up their hands and opt out. It's their loss and they're missing out on a damn good book. It's disturbing, it's dark, but most of all? It's brilliant and I loved every minute of it.

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