The most remarkable, and frustrating, thing about this novel is the fact that it takes place over the span of one dinner — hence the title. Our main players are two married couples, all with worries and dark motives and problems to work through.
Paul is the main character; The Dinner is narrated by him. He is a sinister fellow, obviously with things to hide. Despite always being in his head, I didn’t feel I ever really got to know him . . . same goes for the other characters, too. All of ’em. They intrigued me just enough to keep reading, but I wasn’t totally enthralled. Maybe that’s why it took me a week to read this 300-page paperback?
I must award points for Herman Koch’s marvelous prose, though! He (and the translator, I suppose) write beautifully, without selling the story out for pretentiousness or oversimplification. The author masterfully pulls the reader in wrong directions. I was often lulled into a false sense of complacency before having the rug pulled out from under me! I’m usually good at seeing twists coming, but a lot of the ones here were subtle and so well done.
I would call this one a success, though I wasn’t totally head over heels for it. The pacing is a bit slow, and the ending was a bit disappointing (not much was resolved? I think? this requires a reread), but I did have fun. I liked it. Hence the three stars. While I vastly preferred Summer House with Swimming Pool, The Dinner is a sinister, tasty meal.