Dinner, The – A book review

Dinner, The – A book review

How far would you go to save your loved one from the law and public eye when you know they are guilty? Would your stance change if it was only you that knew they were guilty? Well, the Dinner is based on this dilemma and much more. 

I came across the Dinner when I was hunting books for my infamous Flyaway Friday feature to Netherlands. Written by Dutch author Herman Koch, the plot definitely caught my eye. So let us see how that turned out for me, shall we?

About the book

Dinner

Book Name: The Dinner

Author: Herman Koch

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Paul and Claire Lohman, Serge and Babette

Setting: Netherlands

The plot

The Dinner begins with two brothers (Paul the narrator and his brother Serge Lohman), and their respective wives (Claire and Babette) meeting for a dinner at a high end restaurant. Though most of their dinner conversations are polite and filled with small talks, they have gathered to talk about something very serious – regarding their sons and their recent activities.

Between courses of the meal, they talk about everything under the sun from movies to relationships. They welcome external interruptions, try to undermine each other, as dysfunctional families do, and anything to avoid discussing the acts of their fifteen year old sons.

When they finally open the topic, the true nature of the parents and the distance they would go to protect the children surface.

What their sons did and how their parents decide to handle the situation during and after the dinner forms the rest of the story in the Dinner

My initial thoughts

I began reading the Dinner by hating the narrator’s pretentious elder brother and then realize one by one that each of the characters are wile and truly wicked. I think the strength of the author lies on the fact that the shift happened so subtly that you never see it coming.

As someone who is not a “foodie” and does not really understand the fad about over highly priced food, I am totally with Paul’s hilarious commentary about all the pompousness associated and his brother’s pretentiousness.

The Dinner doesn’t shy away from talking about the dark and disgusting side of humanity and discusses taboo topics like the pressure to seem like a “perfect happy family”, mental illness and dehumanizing others based on labels etc

Things that worked for me

  • Every character is flawed and their gray shade made the book more interesting.
  • If you like biased and unreliable narrators, then you are in for a treat.
  • The writing and pacing are so well done that I grew as impatient as Paul at the many interruptions that kept them from discussing the topic at hand.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • If you are looking for a book with like-able characters, the Dinner is not for you.
  • The Dinner might seem unbelievable to happen in real world if you truly think that humans can’t be morally reprehensible. You will be shocked.

Bottom-line

Read the Dinner if humanity continues to shock you, and you still want to read about the dark, dark place humans can go for selfish reasons. Perfect for you if you liked Dark places by Gillian Flynn or the Vegetarian by Han Kang

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Dinner

Let us chat

Have you read this one? Do you like reading translated works from other countries? Does the likablility of the characters matter to you while reading the book? Let us talk.

Dinner, The – A book review

Flyaway Friday: Let Us Go Dutch

And we are back on time for an awesome guest post from Dutch blogger under our Flyway Friday feature. Are your prepared with the basic facts on Netherlands? I also posted some books to take us virtually around the country. 

If you like these posts, you might take a look at our previous trips to France, Italy, Finland and Philippines here. Join us on our arm chair travels!

Welcome Maureen!

Hi there everyone!! My name is Maureen and I’m a Book Blogger on Maureen’s Books. I’m 29 years old, and I life with my husband and baby girl in the Netherlands. Next to being a Book Blogger, I’m a Nurse in a teaching hospital.

Dutch

Thank you Gayathri for inviting me to share my country with you and your friends here at ElgeeWrites. I think it’s a great idea to share our different countries with each other. Especially since there are so many prejudices out there that just aren’t true. The things I read and hear about The Netherlands, or also sometimes called Holland, for example.

We all wear wooden shoes, ride our bicycles every day, we are all very tall and have used drugs at least once! Well.. Let me help you all out of that dream. I’ve only worn wooden shoes once for a picture when I was little, I haven’t used my bicycle in at least a year and half, I’m only 163 cm (I think that’s about 5 ft 3) and I have never used any sort of drugs.

Traditions

Here in the Netherland we definitely do have our very own traditions. For one we celebrate Kings Day (here called Koningsdag) every year on April 27th. It’s a national holiday here. On this day we celebrate our King’s birthday (and before him it was called Queens day) with all kinds of parties throughout the country.

Children wake up early to sell stuff on little markets, and there is music and food everywhere. There are also many little book stalls, so for us bookish people it’s also a great day Everyone is dressed in Orange (because the Dutch Royal Family is from the House of Orange-Nassau), there are Dutch flags everywhere and it’s just a very fun day. In fact it’s my favorite holiday next to Christmas. I love it!

Dutch
Pic Cred: Pinterest

Also a fun fact: every day on Kings Day the King and his family visit a town here in the Netherlands and celebrate the day in that town and its people. It’s also shown on television.

Another sort of tradition here in the Netherlands is football and ice skating. It’s kind of a big thing around here. Especially football, although we haven’t been very good at it lately! Every time there is European Championship or a World Championship we all go a little crazy. Every supermarket is promoting football by making some kind of silly souvenir. And the streets are even a lot quieter when there is a big game playing.

National Cuisine

Here in the Netherlands we eat stuff from every part of the world. Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, French.. you name it and we eat something from that cuisine at least once a month. But we do have some stuff that is really ‘Dutch’.

And my favorite is definitely called stamppot. Stamppot is basically mashed potatoes with some kind of vegetable. Two of my favorite stamppots are ‘Boerenkool’, mashed potatoes with kale, and ‘andijviestamppot, mashed potatoes with endive. I can eat that every single day. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t like it so much, so I don’t eat it much.

Dutch
Pic cred: valess.nl

Another really dutch thing are Bitterballen. And boy are they taste. Bitterballen are deep fried crispy meatballs. And I don’t think they are really healthy for your, so I don’t eat them a lot. But during summer I love eating Bitterballen while drinking a glass of wine on a nice terrace. Yummy.

Although we sure have many restaurants, and we have the major fast food joints like McDonalds and KFC, I rarely eat there. I mostly cook dinner at home every day. It’s much cheaper, I enjoy cooking and eating out is more special if you don’t do it a lot, I think.

A Typical Day in the Netherlands

Dutch
Pic cred: thejeurnalist

How does a typical day in the Netherlands look? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is rainy and cold. Although the weather has gotten warmer these last view years, it still rains a lot here, and it doesn’t get very warm. A rain coat is definitely not a luxury around here.

Another thing that came to mind was traffic jams. We are a small country, but we have a lot of citizens. So the roads are often very busy, and there are a lot of traffic jams. Unfortunately traffic jams are a daily hassle for me. I go to work by car every day, and I stand in a traffic jam almost every single day. Blegh..

Dutch Stereotypes

Like I said before, there are many stereotypes about Dutch people. It’s been said that we Dutch people are high on drugs a lot, since soft drug is legalized here. Well, although I would be able to get marihuana easily around here, I have never used it and don’t plan on using it ever. I honestly don’t think any of my friends and family use drugs regularly.

Dutch
Pic: memegenerator

I think the fact it’s legal here, makes it uninteresting for a lot of people. So it’s nothing big here. The Dutch ‘drugs’ stereotype is used a lot in movies and tv series and I really hate that. Just as with the red light district in Amsterdam. Come on.. It’s one street that doesn’t mean we have prostitutes everywhere!! I also don’t think every American is like Trump. Just don’t judge! 🙂

Dutch

Another stereotype about us is that we are ‘cheap’ around here. Well, I guess that’s probably true. If we can get something for free we’ll get it. Supermarkets and stores advertise with sales almost all the time and giving tips to waiters and mailmen etc. isn’t something that’s common here.

The last stereotype I hear a lot about Dutch people is that we are direct. And that one is also true I think. We don’t beat around the bush and we aren’t very hysterical people. For example when I see people going crazy wild about a famous person on TV, I know for sure it’s not here. They are just people like us right? And the funny meme here also proves it.. And yes, this is actually true!!

Dutch Books

I have been reading books in English from when I was twelve years old. So I honestly don’t know much about Dutch authors and books. Obviously I hear stuff about Dutch Authors and books on TV and on the radio but I haven’t read many. I have read some Dutch children’s books while growing up, and I still own them.

My favorite Dutch Childrens books are written by Carrie Slee. Her books are mostly based on teens and a lot of her books are made into movies. I also loved the books by Paul van Loon. His books are more ‘scary’ and I adored them growing up.

Our National Language

Here in the Netherlands we speak Dutch, or as we call it Nederlands. Dutch, not Deutsch!! Deutsch is the national language of Germany. And although apparently our languages are very much alike.. I can understand it a little but definitely can’t speak it. Danish is also a little like Dutch. Some words are the same, but I also can’t speak a word Danish.

Dutch
Pic: africanahgirl

There are a lot of words in Dutch that are almost the same in English. For example:

  • Tomato = Tomaat
  • Apple = Appel
  • Pear = Peer
  • Banana = Banaan

And, I had to look this one up, we have one word that has no translation in English. It’s ‘gezellig’, And it’s a word we use a lot. This is what’s being said about our word ‘gezellig’:

Situations can begezellig, as can people and places – it’s an adjective, the noun beinggezelligheid. If something isgezellig, it is familiar, warm, friendly, cozy, and jovial. For example, enjoying a cozy dinner with old-friends in one of your favorite, quaint, little restaurants with some tasty food and wine isgezellig; being in a meeting at work is notgezellig!

Some important Dutch words and sentences for us bookish people are:

  • Bookstore = Boekenwinkel
  • Reading = Lezen
  • Where can I find the nearest Bookstore? = Waar kan ik de dichtstbijzijnde boekenwinkel vinden?
  • Do you sell “…” = Verkoopt u ook “..”

But one thing we Dutch people are mostly very good at is speaking English. Not everyone speaks or writes it fluently but most people can speak English pretty well. So if you come to visit and don’t speak any Dutch? No worries, we can understand you.

And that’s probably in short what I can tell you about our small country of The Netherlands. Who knows maybe some of you get to visit our pretty little country one day?! And to end things in Dutch:

‘Dankjewel Gayathri voor deze leuke kans.’(Thank you, Gayathri for this fun opportunity.)

Thank you Maureen!

Thanks Maureen for your time and sharing with us a glimpse of your Dutch life. You can contact here through her blog and social accounts.

Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook

That brings us to the end of our travel, the Netherland edition. I will meet you next month with another country with its books, authors and bloggers and whatever I can think of.

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Dutch

Let us chat

Have you ever been Netherlands? How do the Dutch stereotypes fare? Do you have any friends in the country? Let us talk.

Dinner, The – A book review

Flyaway Friday: Books that will take you to Netherlands

Welcome to the second week on Netherlands’ edition of the Flyaway Friday! Are you ready to fly off to the Land of Tulips? We even gave you a travel guide to Netherland last week. Do not forget to check it out!

Books That Will Take You To Netherlands

You do know how we travel to a country without passport nor the hassle of the crowd, via the cheapest mode of travel – books. So this week let me talk about books that are set in Netherlands. Let us get on with it, shall we?

Historical Fiction

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Netherlands books

The story is told in the first person by Griet, who is hired as a maid by the master painter Vermeer’s family in Delft. She joins the chaotic family with too many children, an oblivious wife and a husband who doesn’t care about the finance of the family. Griet has fend off the advances of a rich patron, an infatuated young man and fight off the dream of being a wife of the painter. 

What can you expect:

This fictionalized account of the story behind the famous painting also acts as a great social commentary!

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Netherlands books

Set in the Seventeenth Century, eighteen year old Nella arrives in Amsterdam as the wife of Johannes Brandt, who is kind but distant to her and leaves her at the mercy of her sharp tongued sister. Johannes gifts a miniature sized replica of their household and it falls upon Nella to furnish her gift with the help of a miniaturist, whose creations mirrors its real life counterparts. How does this change their lives once and for all?

What can you expect:

A suspense filled story of love and obsession that you can’t put down till the end. 

Contemporary

The Dinner By Herman Koch

Netherlands books

Two brothers and their wives meet in a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam. Behind their apparent polite small talks, they need to discuss matters of grave importance. Their sons have committed something terrible and illegal and they have to decide how it is to be handled. By the time their dinner comes to an end, their trivial facade is broken. Where does all these leave the ‘happy families’ and ‘blood is thicker than water’?

What can you expect:

A mind blowing thriller that spans over a dinner which talks about politics, mental health and other uncomfortable dinner table conversations.

The Light of Amsterdam By David Park

Netherlands books

A single mother, a middle aged couple and 50 something male all heading to Amsterdam for the weekend are united by their misery regarding a close family member. They arrive at the city hoping for a change in their lives and does the city offer them a recourse?

What can you expect:

This slow character oriented fiction explores the complexities of love and relationship.

Classics

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Netherlands books

This classic book captures the poignant story of a young girl from the German occupied Amsterdam. She captures the happenings during the war, especially to the Jews in the form of diary entries between 1942-44 while hiding from the Germans in an attic. 

What can you expect:

Despite the hard times set in the book, it is surprisingly full of life and spirit making it a must read!

Netherlands books

The Fall by Albert Camus

Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader’s own complacency. (From Goodreads)

Other honorable mentions

That is all for now, folks. I will meet you all soon with a guest blogger next week on the Netherlands edition of the Flyaway Friday. Also if you have any question for our Dutch blogger about Netherlands or their culture, do drop them in the comments.

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Netherlands books

Let us chat

Have you read any of these books? Do you know any other book set in Netherlands that is not listed here? What are the stereotypes and facts that you have read about the country that you have heard of? Let us talk.

Dinner, The – A book review

Flyaway Friday: Let us talk about Netherlands

It is Friday and that means I come bearing some exciting news about travel. Yes it is time to announce where we will be travelling for this month’s Flyaway Friday feature. So are you all ready? We will be travelling off to Netherlands.

So if you are still wondering what we are upto, let me give you a quick tour. Every month on Fridays, I take you all virtually to a different country, recommend books set in that country and the most exciting part of all, to have a blogger from that country to tell us more about living there and help us compare what we read or see in books or movies with the reality as they see.

So far we have been to France, Finland, Italy and Philippines

And this month we will be featuring Netherlands and I can’t wait to start off with the introduction and trivia post. So shall we?

Let us locate Netherlands first!

Netherlands is located in the Northwestern part of Europe and shares border with Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. To be more clear I will attach a map, alright?

Credit:picturetomorrow.org

Some basic facts for y’all!

More trivia

Here are some fun facts about Netherlands for you

1) While most of us use the names interchangeably, Holland (consisting of North and South Holland) is just a part of the Kingdom of Netherlands. Next time catch yourself from making that mistake.

2) Netherlands has one of the healthiest diet in the world. In fact it is one of the leading countries in happiness and high per capita income in the world.

Credit: Flickr

3) It legalized same sex marriages in 2001 and was the first nation in the world to do so.

4) While Amsterdam is the capital of the country, the government of the Netherlands is seated in the Hague.

5) Orange is its national color and the monarchy is from the House of Orange.

6) Netherlands is the third largest agricultural exporter, despite their size.

7) The Dutch men and women are some of the tallest in the world with an average height of 182.5cm for adult males and 169 cm for female.

Major cities in Netherlands

  • Amsterdam
  • Rotterdam
  • The Hague
  • Utrecht
  • Eindhoven
  • Tilburg

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Let us chat

Have you ever visited Netherlands in person? Do you know any fun facts about the country? Do you have any questions for the Dutch guest blogger about their nation, habits, stereotypes etc? Let us talk.