The Dinner (Movie Tie-In Edition)

The Dinner (Movie Tie-In Edition)

by Herman Koch

Paperback(Media Tie)

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Now a major motion picture starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, and Chloë Sevigny.

An internationally bestselling phenomenon, the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal.

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

"A European Gone Girl." —The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804190091
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Edition description: Media Tie
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,195,534
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

HERMAN KOCH is the author of seven novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in 25 countries, and was the winner of the Publieksprijs Prize in 2009. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

Read an Excerpt


We were going out to dinner. I won’t say which restaurant, because next time it might be full of people who’ve come to see whether we’re there. Serge made the reservation. He’s always the one who arranges it, the reservation. This particular restaurant is one where you have to call three months in advance—or six, or eight, don’t ask me. Personally, I’d never want to know three months in advance where I’m going to eat on any given evening, but apparently some people don’t mind. A few centuries from now, when historians want to know what kind of crazies people were at the start of the twenty-first century, all they’ll have to do is look at the computer files of the so-called “top” restaurants. That information is kept on file—I happen to know that. If Mr. L. was prepared to wait three months for a window seat last time, then this time he’ll wait for five months for a table beside the men’s room—that’s what restaurants call “customer relations management.”

Serge never reserves a table three months in advance. Serge makes the reservation on the day itself—he says he thinks of it as a sport. You have restaurants that reserve a table for people like Serge Lohman, and this restaurant happens to be one of them. One of many, I should say. It makes you wonder whether there isn’t one restaurant in the whole country where they don’t go faint right away when they hear the name Serge Lohman on the phone. He doesn’t make the call himself, of course; he lets his secretary or one of his assistants do that. “Don’t worry about it,” he told me when I talked to him a few days ago. “They know me there; I can get us a table.” All I’d asked was whether it wasn’t a good idea to call, in case they were full, and where we would go if they were. At the other end of the line, I thought I heard something like pity in his voice. I could almost see him shake his head. It was a sport.

There was one thing I didn’t feel like that evening. I didn’t feel like being there when the owner or on-duty manager greeted Serge Lohman as though he were an old friend. Like seeing how the waitress would lead him to the nicest table on the side facing the garden, or how Serge would act as though he had it all coming to him—that deep down he was still an ordinary guy, and that was why he felt entirely comfortable among other ordinary people.

Which was precisely why I’d told him we would meet in the restaurant itself and not, as he’d suggested, at the cafe around the corner. It was a cafe where a lot of ordinary people went. How Serge Lohman would walk in there like a regular guy, with a grin that said that all those ordinary people should above all go on talking and act as though he wasn’t there—I didn’t feel like that, either.


The restaurant is only a few blocks from our house, so we walked. That also brought us past the cafe where I hadn’t wanted to meet Serge. I had my arm around my wife’s waist; her hand was tucked somewhere inside my coat. The sign outside the cafe was lit with the warm red-and-white colors of the brand of beer they had on tap. “We’re too early,” I said to my wife. “I mean, if we go now, we’ll be right on time.”

“My wife.” I should stop calling her that. Her name is Claire. Her parents named her Marie Claire, but in time Claire didn’t feel like sharing her name with a magazine. Sometimes I call her Marie, just to tease her. But I rarely refer to her as “my wife”—on official occasions sometimes, or in sentences like “My wife can’t come to the phone right now,” or “My wife is very sure she asked for a room with a sea view.”

On evenings like this, Claire and I make the most of the moments when it’s still just the two of us. Then it’s as though everything is still up for grabs, as though the dinner date were only a misunderstanding, as though it’s just the two of us out on the town. If I had to give a definition of happiness, it would be this: happiness needs nothing but itself, it doesn’t have to be validated. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is the opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. All I could hope to add to that is that unhappy families—and within those families, in particular the unhappy husband and wife—can never get by on their own. The more validators, the merrier. Unhappiness loves company. Unhappiness can’t stand silence—especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

So when the bartender at the cafe put our beers down in front of us, Claire and I smiled at each other in the knowledge that we would soon be spending an entire evening in the company of the Lohmans—in the knowledge that this was the finest moment of that evening, that from here on it would all be downhill.

I didn’t feel like going to the restaurant. I never do. A fixed appointment for the immediate future is the gates of hell; the actual evening is hell itself. It starts in front of the mirror in the morning: what you’re going to wear, and whether or not you’re going to shave. At times like these, after all, everything is a statement, a pair of torn and stained jeans as much as a neatly ironed shirt. If you don’t scrape off the day’s stubble, you were too lazy to shave; two days’ beard immediately makes them wonder whether this is some new look; three days or more is just a step from total dissolution. “Are you feeling all right? You’re not sick, are you?” No matter what you do, you’re not free. You shave, but you’re not free. Shaving is a statement as well. Apparently you found this evening significant enough to go to the trouble of shaving, you see the others thinking—in fact, shaving already puts you behind 1–0.

And then I always have Claire to remind me that this isn’t an evening like every other. Claire is smarter than I am. I’m not saying that out of some half-baked feminist sentiment or in order to endear women to me. You’ll never hear me claim that “women in general” are smarter than men. Or more sensitive, more intuitive, that they are more “in touch with life” or any of the other horseshit that, when all is said and done, so-called “sensitive” men try to peddle more often than women themselves.

Claire just happens to be smarter than I am; I can honestly say that it took me a while to admit that. During our first years together, I thought she was intelligent, I guess, but intelligent in the usual sense: precisely as intelligent, in fact, as you might expect my wife to be. After all, would I settle for a stupid woman for any longer than a month? In any case, Claire was intelligent enough for me to stay with her even after the first month. And now, almost twenty years later, that hasn’t changed.

So Claire is smarter than I am, but on evenings like this, she still asks my opinion about what she should wear, which earrings, whether to wear her hair up or leave it down. For women, earrings are sort of what shaving is for men: the bigger the earrings, the more significant, the more festive, the evening. Claire has earrings for every occasion. Some people might say it’s not smart to be so insecure about what you wear. But that’s not how I see it. The stupid woman is the one who thinks she doesn’t need any help. What does a man know about things like that? the stupid woman thinks, and proceeds to make the wrong choice.

I’ve sometimes tried to imagine Babette asking Serge whether she’s wearing the right dress. Whether her hair isn’t too long. What Serge thinks of these shoes. The heels aren’t too flat, are they? Or maybe too high?

But whenever I do I realize there’s something wrong with the picture, something that seems unimaginable: “No, it’s fine, it’s absolutely fine,” I hear Serge say. But he’s not really paying attention. It doesn’t actually interest him, and besides, even if his wife were to wear the wrong dress, all the men would still turn their heads as she walked by. Everything looks good on her. So what’s she moaning about?

This wasn’t a hip cafe; the fashionable types didn’t come here—it wasn’t cool, Michel would say. Ordinary people were by far in the majority. Not the particularly young or the particularly old—in fact, a little bit of everything all thrown together, but above all ordinary. The way a cafe should be.

It was crowded. We stood close together, beside the door to the men’s room. Claire was holding her beer in one hand; with the fingers of the other she was gently squeezing my wrist.

“I don’t know,” she said, “but I’ve had the impression recently that Michel is acting strange. Well, not really strange, but different. Distant. Haven’t you noticed?”

“Oh yeah?” I said. “I guess it’s possible.”

I had to be careful not to look at Claire—we know each other too well for that—my eyes would give me away. Instead, I behaved as though I were looking around the cafe, as though I were deeply interested in the spectacle of ordinary people involved in lively conversation. I was relieved that I’d stuck to my guns, that we wouldn’t be meeting the Lohmans until we reached the restaurant; in my mind’s eye I could see Serge coming through the swinging doors, his grin encouraging the regulars above all to go on with what they were doing and pay no attention to him.

“He hasn’t said anything to you?” Claire asked. “I mean, you two talk about other things. Do you think it might have something to do with a girl? Something he’d feel easier telling you about?”

Just then the door to the men’s room opened and we had to step to one side, pressed even closer together. I felt Claire’s beer glass clink against mine.

“Do you think it has something to do with girls?” she asked again.

If only that were true, I couldn’t help thinking. Something to do with girls . . . wouldn’t that be wonderful, wonderfully normal, the normal adolescent mess. “Can Chantal/Merel/Rose spend the night?” “Do her parents know? If Chantal’s/Merel’s/Rose’s parents think it’s okay, it’s okay with us. As long as you remember . . . as long as you’re careful when you . . . ah, you know what I mean . . . I don’t have to tell you about that anymore. Right? Michel?”

Girls came to our house often enough, each one prettier than the next. They sat on the couch or at the kitchen table and greeted me politely when I came home. “Hello, Mr. Lohman.” “You don’t have to call me Mr. Lohman. Just call me Paul.” And so they would call me “Paul” a few times, but a couple of days later it would be back to “Mr. Lohman” again.

Sometimes I would get one of them on the phone, and while I asked if I could take a message for Michel, I would shut my eyes and try to connect the girl’s voice at the other end of the line (they rarely mentioned their names, just plunged right in: “Is Michel there?”) with a face. “No, that’s okay, Mr. Lohman. It’s just that his cell phone is switched off, so I thought I’d try this number.”

A couple of times, when I came in unannounced, I’d had the impression that I’d caught them at something, Michel and Chantal/Merel/Rose: that they were watching The Fabulous Life on MTV less innocently than they wanted me to think—that they’d been fiddling with each other, that they’d rushed to straighten their clothes and hair when they heard me coming. Something about the flush on Michel’s cheeks—something heated, I told myself.

To be honest, though, I had no idea. Maybe nothing was going on at all, maybe all those pretty girls just saw my son as a good friend: a nice, rather handsome boy, someone they could show up with at a party—a boy they could trust, precisely because he wasn’t the kind who wanted to fiddle with them right away.

“No, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with a girl,” I said, looking Claire straight in the eye now. That’s the oppressive thing about happiness, the way everything is out on the table like an open book: if I avoided looking at her any longer, she’d know for sure that something was going on—with girls, or worse.

“I think it’s more like something with school,” I said. “He’s just done those exams; I think he’s tired. I think he underestimated it a little, how tough his sophomore year would be.”

Did that sound believable? And above all: did I look believable when I said it? Claire’s gaze shifted quickly back and forth between my right and my left eye; then she raised her hand to my shirt collar, as though there were something out of place there that could be dealt with now, so I wouldn’t look like an idiot when we got to the restaurant.

She smiled and placed the flat of her hand against my chest; I could feel two fingertips against my skin, right where the top button of my shirt was unbuttoned.

“Maybe that’s it,” she said. “I just think we both have to be careful that at a certain point he doesn’t stop talking about things. That we get used to that, I mean.”

“No, of course. But at his age, he kind of has a right to his own secrets. We shouldn’t try to find out everything about him—then maybe he’d clam up altogether.”

I looked Claire in the eye. My wife, I thought at that moment. Why shouldn’t I call her my wife? My wife. I put my arm around her and pulled her close. Even if only for the duration of this evening. My wife and I, I said to myself. My wife and I would like to see the wine list.

“What are you laughing about?” Claire said. My wife said. I looked at our beer glasses. Mine was empty; hers was still three-quarters full. As usual. My wife didn’t drink as fast as I did, which was another reason why I loved her, this evening perhaps more than other evenings.

“Nothing,” I said. “I was thinking . . . I was thinking about us.”

Customer Reviews

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The Dinner 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 249 reviews.
Fester More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a compelling page-turner, beautifully written. I found it interesting that nearly all of the characters were horrible, self-serving, and unlikable - most stories feature a "good guy" or hero to serve as foil to the villan. I think this is the best book I have read in a long time, much better even than the highly accaimed "Gone Girl" which is currently on the best-seller list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was horrible, but I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was waiting for more to happen, but the writer "hid" everything that would have made this book more interesting. In the end, I felt like reading this book was a complete waste of time. There was so much potential too, but everything felt under developed. There were too many "fillers" with the overly done descriptions of Paul's surroundings, to the point where it started to get annoying.  I wouldn't recommend this book, but you don't have to take my word for it.
kalevala More than 1 year ago
The characters appear normal and end up, without giving away the ending, totally bizarre and dysfunctional. The narrator/father Paul initially appears as a common, well-adjusted middle class parent. would love to ask the author if he intentionally presented Paur as unfeeling, cruel, cold, violent facist who feels some persons do not deserve to live because they are weak, poor, a burden to society. Paul himself is diagnosed as mentally ill. Was he commenting on contemporary society? There is just a lot going on including family ties, genetics, societial values. I didn't see it as just a book about families and protecting children. I read this book in several days and didn't want to put it down. A very enjoyable, edgy book. The dinner setting for most of the book was interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of best books for 2013, this one is a number 1 in the category "You can run, but you can't hide". Think of it as 'Fight Club' but then in an Amsterdam restaurant. To be read on a nice & quiet beach.
mysterygirlSC More than 1 year ago
This had to be one of the most boring books I have read in a long time. There wasn't one character that endeared themselves to me, all of them IMHO were boorish, self serving, dull and egotistical. The only one who almost redeemed himself was Serg but in the end was no better than the rest. I could have put up with the characters if the writing had not been dull as well. If I had purchased the book instead of the nook version, I would have returned it to Barnes & Noble after the 1st couple of chapters. I don't remember ever having given any book I read less than 3 stars but if I available I would have given this one a negative !
SheWhoShall More than 1 year ago
Wow. Wooooow. This book is ridiuclously well-written. Intense, rich, suspense spun continually throughout..I couldn't put it down. The content will make you shake your head a few times, and reconsider leaving the house. The beauty is in (Spolier Alert) the duality of a couple that seems so first. Wowza. Paul's brutal self-awareness and keen observation is really the key to the story. Just a scathing story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't want to give too much away. But, if you liked We Need To Talk About Kevin, then you will enjoy this emotionally stirring read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was so-so. Doesn't live up to the hype though. And not sure why people would even mention "the Dinner" and "Gone Girl" in the same sentence. No comparison, as the latter is a dark masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish i never bought this e-book! I kept reading, hoping it would get better. It never did! Aming othet things the author would start describing somethhing, then say "I won't tell you this or that". If you don't wajt to tell us details, don't write a book! Annoying to say the least!
Dzina More than 1 year ago
Had difficulty putting this book down as I wanted to know the outcome.  I imagine there are more parents than we know dealing with the less than pleasant behavior of the child which  has then been shared with the world on social media.   This book gives one view of how a child's inappropriate behavior can have a impact on an entire family.  Certainly there are some lessons to be learned in this day of modern technology aw well as demonstrating how a child's behavior and moral compass can be a reflection of that which is seen in the parent.
SuseNJ More than 1 year ago
For the intelligent reader who appreciates subtleties.... A great psychological thriller, wonderful writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The premise is enticing. How far would you go to save your child? I found the beginning quite amusing. Paul's conjectures about the people he sees are hilarious. His observations of the restaurant manager and that darn pinky made me laugh a lot. I liked his detailed descriptions of the food, felt like you were there in the restaurant with him. As the story progresses, it gets dark and serious. Suspenseful as you dont know whats going to happen! I enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after reading the premise, solve a mystery while sitting down for one 4 course dinner in a prestigious restaurant. Sounded like an interesting twist on a mystery. I was disappointed in the overall execution. The underlying story is good, but I felt the round about way the author got there was tedious. Paul Lohman is the character that narrates the story, he is a man who hates everything and at times I wanted to say 'quit whining and get on with it'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a blast reading this book. It gave an insight to a life style and raised questions to serious isses. What would you have done?
Katie_CA More than 1 year ago
This book is so ordinary and then so upsetting at the same time. magnificent writing. i'm physically sick after reading it, but that is a good thing! very powerful
MaryLouH More than 1 year ago
I read this book but only finished it because, when I have the time I try to finish no matter how bad it is ... and this was bad ... i kept hoping, searching for something that would redeem the characters - any of them but in the end it didn't happen ... the whole premise of this "dinner" was fairly idiotic and unimaginable .. add on top of that the despicable personalities of the characters - and not in a good, interesting way, just made this book a HUGE disappointment and waste of time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit slow throughout and was hard to follow at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great story about a family facing a life changing problem. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner to discuss the problem and how they will handle it. During the evening we get a look at the back story. The sibling riverly and the other issues that have come up with the families in the past. I have to admit for me it was a little slow and I really had to be in the mood to get into it, but it was well worth it!! Parts of the explanaition at the time seemed to drag on and was meaningless, but in the end it was all needed to fully understand the decision the adults make and the actions of their children. "Secrets didn't get in the way of happiness." This one line from the book really made me think. Can secrets get in the way of happiness in a family?  SBMorales
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought the framing/structure was sophisticated and novel, and the characterization believable, and the prose well-written. However, I didn't find it that suspenseful (do not be fooled by reviews referring to this as the "European Gone Girl"... it was similar to Defending Jacob in theme and plot (although Defending Jacob was better). I did not really like the book... this must be a new literary trend of using a completely unreliable narrator and making all the characters un-likable, as most books we have read lately in my book club reflect that practice! I loved Gone Girl by the way, which when I read a review of The Dinner saying it was similar to that, was what made me want to read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't had this much trouble finishing a book in a long time. Every time I thought I couldn't take it any more, the author would thow me just enough info to get me to keep reading. Yes, the book is very thought-provoking; however, it moves very slowly. I kept wanting to scream "Just Get To The Point!!" The story line begs the question of how far would you go to protect your child. It is a hot topic, but there seemed to be no one in the story with any redeemable qualities. I disliked all of the characters (right down to the awful waiter with the horrible pointing pinky finger). The only person that wanted to do the right thing wanted to do it for all the wrong reasons. I definitely hated the ending, for no one got what they deserved. I also found it very hippocritical that what the main character felt about people and justice was excused for his son. Again, no one had any redeemable qualities in this book. As for the issue of mentally ill people? Being mentally ill does not give anyone the right to behave in this way and when they do, the worst harm you could do as a parent is to completely ignore bad behavior. So, not the best read ever. It does give you something to think about. However, it did drag quite a bit. I am not sorry I paid for it, or read it; but I don't think I will be looking for anything else by this author. This one kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. -- SPeeD
Aml More than 1 year ago
It is an interesting concept to have the story focused around one evening's dinner. The story line wasn't what I had expected, but ok.
Anonymous 6 months ago
If you like reading about a dysfunctional family then you'll like this. Weird ending and tedious at times.
ConfuzzledShannon More than 1 year ago
The Dinner starts with two brothers and their wives at a fancy restaurant in The Netherlands. The one brother is a politician and the other a businessman out of work because of an illness. They both have teenage sons who seem to get along. The way the cousins get along and spend their time is what starts to bring the drama to the story. It is mostly set at the restaurant and flashbacks other places where the story takes an unexpectedly dark turn. I read this for a book club. This book was not technically picked, the theme for the month was “Food”. This was the closest I had on the subject. I was not sure what to expect because I had never heard of the book before. Reading the description of the characters and story did not interest me. In fact, I think my husband picked up the book. The story was very different than anything I have read and with this one I consider it a good thing. I really did not expect the turn at the end. In truth, I figured the opposite was going to happen and most lived happily ever after. Nope, that was not the case. The kids were juvenile delinquents who needed a kick in the ass and a trip to jail, as did other characters by the end. The book kept me interested. It was like watching an accident on the side of the road. I do not usually read books with such dark and despicable underbelly unless it is so supernatural or fantastical that I know the happenings will not come to be. This was a story about something that could happen and probably has. So my only dislike after reading this is me whining “why’d you have to make me think such dark thoughts?” It was an interesting read but I think if I had the choice to read it again for the first time I would not. Reading a review would have been enough for me. That does not mean I hated it and it was not interesting. I just feel like I spent more time then I want on this book.
jnmegan More than 1 year ago
Herman Koch’s The Dinner, translated from the Dutch, is set in modern Amsterdam. Most of the novel’s action takes place over the course of an expensive dinner endured by two couples at an upscale restaurant. The narrator, Paul, begins by expressing his dread over the upcoming evening and alludes to his antipathy toward the other party. The reader is drawn into his thoughts, memories and apprehensions. Paul and his wife Claire are joined by his famous sibling and his wife. It is apparent that there is some long-standing resentment and tension between the four. Throughout the dinner, they seem to be building toward an unavoidable confrontation- one that keeps Paul searching for ways to postpone the reason for their gathering. The book tackles questions of wealth and privilege, fame and reputation in the face of potential scandal. It also addresses the issues of parental obligations and advocacy, and the lengths to which parents are willing to go to shield their children from the consequences of their actions. The reader is led to contemplate the point at which these self-serving goals begin to alienate people from each other and create inevitable competition even within families. Each section of The Dinner is titled after a course as it is served during the meal. The characters are extremely interesting and morally ambiguous, unlikeable in many ways- and perhaps too familiar. Despite the constrained timeline, the novel is psychologically deep and suspenseful. Koch has created a work that is timely, thought-provoking and ultimately disturbing. Readers who prefer dark thrillers that focus on character and larger ethical concerns would find the Dinner to be extremely satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have also read another book by Koch (I can't recall the exact title, but maybe Houses with Swimming Pools -?-), which I liked more. I see that there are some negative reviews, which I suppose I am not surprised about; I imagine not everyone can appreciate the dark humor, the moral questions, or the development of characters who are not exactly *lovable* in the traditional sense. If you can appreciate those things, however, and if you like a story that makes you think, you will enjoy this book. If you saw the movie, know that the book is worth reading and has a far better ending.