Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Dinner by Herman Koch (read 10/8/15 to 10/12/15)

This was the NNCC book for October, and joy of joy's it was my suggestion.  Hooray.  I first heard about this book both BBC world book club and listening to the author speak about it really made me want to read it.  Koch states in the BBC world book club that the theme is really that violence lurking inside all of us given the correct circumstances and it intrigued me.
This is the story of two couples, actually two brothers and their wives who are meeting for dinner to discuss something horrible their sons have done together.  The first third of the book we don't know what the boys have done.  The repercussions of this act by the boys is far reaching and potentially devastating for both themselves and their parent's futures.
I really liked this book.  I was so happy I selected it.  At the end of the there were still unanswered questions and mysteries that keep me up at night wondering about.  I really like the character, even the unlivable ones, Koch did a great job writing and developing them.  The mystery of the boys deeds and what their parents are going to do about it was doled out the right speed.  Koch suckered us in and kept us asking what is going on?  The characters find themselves in a very complicated situation and are very complicated characters, it all feeds into a well written and suspenseful novel that I couldn't put down once I picked it up, all other books fell to the wayside, because I had to KNOW what was going on.
It seems that at my book club I was the only person who actually liked the book, three others had mixed feelings, and the remaining four didn't like it. I understood their feelings and their reasoning, and it was actually mostly those reasonings that I liked it.
One of the big reasons the book was unlike was that the story got turned upside down, what you expected at the beginning of the book isn't what happened at the end.  I liked that Koch took us down a twisty rabbit hole, that where we thought we knew what was happening and what would happen was wrong, I like when a book proves my preconceived plot notions wrong.
Two, the characters are unlikable, they don't make you want to invest in them.  As I said earlier, I did like the characters and I did invest in them, so I didn't have this issue at all.  I think it is refreshing to sometimes read about unlikable characters, to love to hate them almost.  I didn't hate any of the characters, did I think some were schmucks, yes, did I hate them for it no.  Were some of the characters morally corrupt and not nice people, did I hate them for that, nope.  I viewed them as complicated and layered, the first layer is oh yes look as this nice family and this not so nice family, start peeling away the layers and you start seeing that things are not as cut and dry as they seem.  If felt that Koch did a great job of peeling away the layers and showing us a more complicated family dynamic than at first appeared.
Three, Koch was a lazy writer who left lots of details out because it was too much work.  I don't think he did it because he was lazy, I think he did it to reach a goal, to force his reader to wonder.  That Koch wanted us to come to conclusions.  The disease the father and mother have are never stated.  Names of people and places are often left out.
Four, why was it set in a restaurant.  Koch says in the BBC interview it was set on a restaurant in his neighborhood, and the point was to have the discussion in a public place to avoid violence.
Again I still really liked the book, I thought it was well written.  I recommend it, but I think the caveat is that you might walk away from it with mixed feelings.

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