Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

The Dinner - Herman Koch, Sam Garrett

The Dinner is a fascinating, but creepy novel which takes place in Holland. The Diary of Anne Frank also is set here and there are references to it and the the Frank dinner. Two brothers, Serge and Paul Lohman, along with their wives, Babette and Claire, meet in an ostentatious restaurant to break bread and share confidences that no families should ever have to share. The waiter brings course after course which delays the meat of their crisis. The flowing wine and sharp utensils pierce civilities.

Paul, the unreliable narrator is off his medication. He is a burnt out teacher who has been on leave for fourteen years. Paul's son, Michel is his spitting image. His successful brother, Serge, is ready to throw away his political aspirations to destroy and save his son, Rick. Although Serge is described as boorish, he seems to be the only diner with manners and scruples. Babette and Claire are willing to sacrifice their sons to assure that they do not get their just desserts.

The Dinner is a formal affair. The expensive food and wine do not feed the family. It is merely a contrivance to bring out the worst in this family which seems to have been raised by wolves.

This is a very dysfunctional family. All of the money, power and connections can never make them happy, though they may grin like hyenas. As I read it, I knew that I was being sucked in down a dirty drain. No matter how hot the water or strong the detergent, these dinner plates were stained.