MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Now, something to whet your appetite for reading. It's a novel structured around a five-course meal, from aperitif to digestif. This is not your average evening meal, as we hear from reviewer Rosecrans Baldwin.
ROSECRANS BALDWIN, BYLINE: In most books, eating doesn't matter. Years can pass in someone's life, and we don't hear about the meals. We don't even hear about the snacks. But that's not true in "The Dinner," by Herman Koch. The book was originally published in the Netherlands and this month, it's coming out in the U.S. It's the story of two brothers and their wives meeting for dinner. The restaurant is one of those super-sophisticated places - overpriced champagne, guinea fowl wrapped in bacon; that kind of thing. And of course, the portions are tiny. At one point, the narrator describes his wife's dinner like this:
(Reading) The first thing that struck you about Claire's plate was its vast emptiness. Of course, I'm well aware that in the better restaurants, quality takes precedence over quantity. But you have voids, and then you have voids.
But the fancy dinner is a cover. What's actually going on is much more nasty. One of the men is a famous politician; the other is a retired teacher. They don't get along but their sons do, and over the course of the meal, you realize the boys have done something terrible. It's so upsetting, it showed up on the news and the whole country is shocked. But in the video, the boys' faces are hard to see, so they might be safe for now. The parents are at this dinner to decide what to do next. I won't explain the rest of the book. The secrets are half the fun. But I will say one of the reasons it's so chilling is that it seems like it could really happen.
What the boys did is grotesque, but it's not impossible. And even worse, the parents - by dessert, they're saying and doing things that are so horrifying, they're almost unpalatable; and I wrestled with what I would have done if I were them.
The best part about "The Dinner" was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn't get up from the table.
BLOCK: The new novel is called "The Dinner," by Herman Koch. It was reviewed by Rosecrans Baldwin. His latest book is called "Paris, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down." You can find more reading recommendations at NPRBooks.org.
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