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Synopsis

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

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 polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse -- the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. 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.
     Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Ratings and Reviews

Overall rating

3.4 out of 5
(208)
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    Dark as it may turn, the opening chapter 'appetizer' is hilarious...a satirical jab at foodie culture. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book and had me laughing aloud. It's wonderful to be drawn into such a dark and disturbing story with extreme laughter. The rest of the book is deeply shocking but based on a true story. It illuminates the depths to which parents will sink to protect a child, albeit one who is old enough to know right from wrong.

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    The plot was good and characters well developed. I thought the ending was going to be more thrilling or exciting but I was left unfulfilled.

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    Great book, two different sides of one story and really makes you think of how one event can be different for two sides of a family

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    I'm not sure how I feel about this book. One the one hand it was interesting and quite engaging but on the other there so much about it that I hated. There are too many holes and gaps and absences of information. Throughout the book the narrator talks around things and then decides not to tell the reader parts of the story that in some cases feel important and others completely irrelevant. Why was Claire in the hospital? Did Paul put her there? Was it a miscarriage/abortion followed by tubes tied/hysterectomy? Or was it something completely benign like flu/pneumonia? Then there's the matter of Paul's illness. No such illness exists. A genetic mental illness identified by amnio that can cause violent behaviour and passed on from father to son. This just pisses me off. Firstly because there are enough interesting actual illnesses around that the author could have used had the author been bothered to do a little research and secondly because there is enough stigma and misinformation about mental illness without authors contributing to it. So these things coupled with all the unimportant omissions like the name of the restaurant, the time Claire called her son or the name of the hospital etc which I honestly wouldn't have thought about, much less cared, had the narrator never mentioned that he wasn't going to tell me. It really does make me think the author took the easy route by avoiding fact to thereby avoid having to actually look stuff up. And that's just lazy. All the characters in the book were morally bankrupt. There was not one redeeming character in the book. It's not surprising their children have serious issues when you think about it. I'm not sure which of the character's is more disturbing, Paul who suffering from some imaginary illness presumably leaves him with a diminished capacity to condemn his sons behaviour and inadvertently encourages it. Serge, a would-be prime minister's self serving behaviour is at least to be expected, although he was the only one talking about consequences. Babette who's only concern seemed to be giving up a lifestyle she enjoyed and who quite happily discussed bringing her husband down in the garden of a restaurant. And then Claire, clearly a sociopath, actively manipulating everybody and blatantly assisting her son to commit murder. I do wonder how much of this was fantasy on the part of Paul though. Did he really smash the principals face in and then smile and wave at his son across the school yard while, presumably, still holding the bloodied headmaster? Seems unlikely. Likewise did he really smash his brothers face in with a casserole dish? I suspect that in reality, most of the book is actually what Paul wished he'd done. Finally, the amnio that Paul finds at the end. I think it was left intentionally vague by the author (again, to avoid having to look stuff up) but my interpretation is this: Claire knew what Paul had even before he was diagnosed and requested the amnio (decision by parents) to see if her baby might also be afflicted. The amnio showed Michel was but she decided to carry on with the pregnancy rather than terminate. I gave it 4 stars because, despite the things I hated, I enjoyed reading it, I didn't want to put it down and after finishing it, I found it left me contemplating the characters and the plot in a way that a good book should leave you.

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    My thoughts...

    This was quite a read. A journey that I have never taken before.

(208)

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