The Dinner: A Novel by Herman Koch

2 of 3
The Dinner
304 pages; Hogarth
Two brothers and their wives meet for a meal at a nice, mutually convenient restaurant—sounds pretty unremarkable, right? But The Dinner, Herman Koch's sparkling, spine-tinglingly creepy new novel, is just the opposite: It's astonishing. Paul and Claire Lohman are on the way to dinner with Paul's brother Serge and his wife Babette. But from the first, when we see Paul searching his son's room, it's clear that the stakes are higher than eating a tournedos. "Unhappy families ... can never get by on their own. The more validators the merrier," Paul tells us. There's plenty of unhappiness among the company here, rendered in crisp, cleaver-sharp prose that keeps the pages turning. The dialogue is so biting, you'll go "ouch" every other line. In spite of the brutality of the language, the plotting is so finely handled you barely realize where the author is leading you, which is not to the exquisite stories behind each dish served but instead to a secret that can no longer be ignored. When at last a resolution of sorts is found, you'll be exhausted. And yet, given the conclusion's horrifying implications, sleep is the one thing that definitely won't be on your menu.
— Nathalie Gorman