by Herman Koch
Happy Monday, friends :) Now that you’ve got some great places to chill out at over lunch this week, you’re going to need a good book to read, too! I heard this book was a pretty good read a while ago, and to start off with, I was a bit disappointed. A few dozen pages in, I almost gave up on it, but before long, I realised I’d been completely drawn in to it; I ended up finishing it in a few days, because half way through, I couldn’t put it down!
Without giving too much away, you’ve for two couples who meet for a dinner, and the story is relayed by one of the guests. While it starts out simply enough, we find out that they in fact have some serious stuff to discuss over dinner. You get the idea from the get go that the dinner probably isn’t going to be the most enjoyable or relaxing of evenings…
“I didn’t feel like doing this at all, I realized again. My aversion to the evening that lay ahead had become almost physical – a slight feel of nausea, clammy hands and the start of a headache somewhere behind my left eye – not quite enough, though, for me to actually become unwell or fall unconscious right there on the spot.”
Each section of the book starts with another course of the dinner, and the descriptions of the food by the waiter are well explained…
“‘The crayfish are dressed in a vinaigrette of tarragon and baby green onions,’ said the manager: he was at Serge’s plate now, pointing with his pinkie. ‘And these are chanterelles from Vosges.’ The pinkie vaulted over the crayfish to point out two brown toadstools, cut lengthways.
It was a well-groomed hand, as if established while the manager was uncorking the bottle of Chablis Serge had ordered… For the hand of a stranger, though, I felt as though it was coming too close to our food; it hovered less than an inch above the crayfish, and the pinkie itself came even closer, almost brushing the chanterelles”
As the dinner unfolds, course by course, so do the secrets and betrayals. They’re there to discuss an event involving their children, an event that’s sparked national interest and a police investigation. The characters develop quickly with their histories plainly laid out on the table, if you will, but you still feel like you’re really getting to know them and what makes them tick quite well. The story teller jumps back and forth between the dinner as it happens, and past events that relate to the incident that brings them all together on that fateful night; it’s obvious immediately that he’s the sort of character that overthinks things, notices the small details, and reads deeply between the lines – this was one passage that really highlighted that for me, and sums him up pretty well…
“I saw something in his eyes that I hadn’t seen there before: something neutral, or rather, something non-committal, as non-committal as his herringbone suit.”
I found that, while I’ve never been in the situation of the characters in the book, a lot of it was very relatable – a lot of the characters in the book are like people most of us know, and it really does make you think about what you would do, what lengths you’d really be willing to go to to protect someone you love… Absolutely fantastic read; do yourself a favour and pick up a copy now, dig in, and enjoy!