Published by Hogarth on February 12th 2013
Format: Owned Hardback
A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened... Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
Even though I’ve missed most of the 2015 books we’ve read, I’m going to attempt to keep up with our 2016 books.
Our first read of the year was a roaring success, as The Dinner discussion was lively and super well attended (12 of our 13). We officially have a new member, who to my nerdy delight, took notes on the book. It was the other Katie’s month to host, and we had a wonderful meal and got to tour her new house. Then we got down to actually talking about the book- which with our large group doesn’t always happen.
It’s funny how that most of our best discussions come from books that divide us, or ones we hate. The Dinner had it’s lovers and haters- some of us liking that the characters were pretty unlikable, and others who wanted the book and it’s characters to die a slow, painful death. Regardless of whether we liked the book or not, we had lots of opinions and thoughts, and resorted to handing around a large stick to control the conversation (so we weren’t all shouting over one another, as that tends to happen). The stick worked better than our initial item- a nekkid ginger Cabbage Patch Kid. 😉
We’ve read several books with twist at the end – Fingersmith, Gone Girl, Big Little Lies, so we quite enjoy arguing over the endings. I personally usually like controversial endings, where things are left messy or bad people get away with their actions. It’s no surprise that the ending also had some of us very pleased, and others not so much. I especially like when I think the ending fits the book and the characters- I don’t want controversy for controversy’s sake- it has to ring true to the story. I think in The Dinner, the ending is the payoff.
The Dinner is basically the tale of two brothers and their wives, narrated by the younger, less successful brother. The couples are meeting at a swank restaurant to discuss an incident that their sons were involved in, although it takes the reader quite awhile to learn just what the boys did- narrator Paul is not, we discover, the most reliable of narrators.
I read the book over just a couple of days, and each time I was able to sit and read for several hours, which helped because it does start off a bit slow. But my curiosity over what the boys may have done won out, and then I found myself fascinated by Paul’s history. For me it wasn’t a 4 or 5 star read, but I definitely thought it was good and worth talking about- which makes it perfect for book club.
The one thing I forgot to bring up at book club- how far would you go to protect your child? We talked a lot about the characters motives for wanting to help their sons, but not about how odd or reasonable that was. I don’t have kids, but I have nieces and nephews. There’s not a lot that I wouldn’t do to protect them- from others and themselves, but there are lines I would draw, lines that if crossed I wouldn’t shield them from the consequences. I would never stop loving them, however I believe strongly in justice… but that said, it would totally depend on the circumstances. And how much of a favorite they are. 😉
I’d recommend this book for any book club to read- there’s a lot to discuss and I’ve tried hard not to spoil any of it in my review because it’s really better to just read it for yourself. 😉
The Dinner gets a Midnight Book Rating of: