Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: The Dinner

"All these heads, I thought. All these heads into which everything disappears"

Title: Het Diner / The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch
Year: 2009

The setting is a family dinner. It’s tense, and we know that something is off. Gradually, we figure out what it is.

I don’t read much Dutch fiction. This mostly stems from my predilection for English literature, and as I was an English student until recently I honestly only really read books in English. I’m trying to switch things up a little, because I started to notice a decline in my ability to read and write in Dutch. The Dinner was my first serious attempt to restore this.

So I expected a lot of this novel. Everybody loves it, not only the Dutch. Both for the plot – which is not something Dutch books are known for – and for the writing style.

The first half of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed. It was mysterious, yet nothing much was going on.Dutch fiction, I may have to explain, is generally not plot-driven. Characters, themes, anything else but plot, drive the story. Here, plot was certainly the main focus. The characters were all quite fleshed out, but they didn’t necessarily stand out from each other: they were all kind of the same. Moreover, the writing style seemed to change at the half-point, as if the author didn’t care about his prose anymore and merely wanted to get his story out into the world.

The writing was interesting and refreshing. But suddenly everything changed. What I thought was a novel classified as literary fiction suddenly became a thriller, and an intense one at that. Everything exploded and out of nowhere there’s a whirlwind of events. Although extremely cleverly thought out and well-structured, I did not like this shift. I can’t fully explain why, but I think it was mainly because I was expecting an amazingly written work of Dutch fiction. Now,

It may be just because I wasn’t prepared, or in the mood for it. It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the read. I finished it quickly, and I didn’t want to put the novel down. But I didn’t feel satisfied upon finishing it. I felt it lacked something, and I was disappointed at the change of genre and pace towards the middle.

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