Monday, March 17, 2014

The Dinner by Herman Koch - Nordic Crime Book Review

          It’s interesting how this book was hyped by the media.  The Wall Street Journal said that this was a European Gone Girl.  Not sure how that comparison was made since the books are so far apart on the plot where the only thing both books have in common is that they are both psychological thrillers.  

          I was interested in the book because of the premise: two families getting together to talk about their children and the heinous crime they committed and how they were going to deal with it.   The plot would only thicken since Paul Lohman is the narrator who will do anything to protect his son, Michel.  In the end, the premise didn’t live up to that.  

          In the beginning, Paul will narrate the story and every action that he does will be followed, including going to the bathroom.  Since the book is under 300 pages, every page will count and and at times he rambles but we will see a tense relationship building between him and his brother, who may become the next prime minister.  

          After that, the story moves on flashbacks to the crime that the children have committed and what led up to it.  Then it would move on to Paul Lohman, who is a complex and sinister character to say the least.  We see how bad his relationship is with his brother and the actions he takes against other characters in the story.  In reading this, we only wonder what Paul is going to do next.  

          I think that to me, that is where the story starts to unravel.  There are certain actions that Paul takes in the story that leaves a lot of things up in the air.  Nothing is explained as to how he gets away with these actions and it’s left up to the imagination of the reader to decide if it’s believable.  

           From what I read, that was the part that troubled me the most.  There seemed to be no consequences for the actions that Paul took.  While it gave the story a nice pace and added a lot of suspense, I couldn’t leave it to my imagination to decide what Paul’s fate would be.  

          The ending was a surprise and Koch wrapped it up nicely.  At the same time though, the flashbacks of Paul’s actions just left too many things up in the air.  I think that if Koch didn’t leave it to my imagination, then I would have enjoyed the book more at the end.  That’s the reason I could only give this book three stars.  

Ron Hummer

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