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Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Dinner

From Amazon: 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.

I started this book on the plane to Mexico and finished it the first day in (I love having unlimited time to read).  The first thing I said when I finished the book was "well that was stupid" (not a term I use much).  Since then I have thought a lot about what makes a book "good" and whether this one was actually stupid, or whether I had judged too hastily.  My first clue that I really thought it was a better book than my initial opinion is the fact that a few weeks later I am still thinking about it.  I realized that the opinion that The Dinner was stupid was based on my dislike of the characters and the decisions they make.  However, the writing was really fantastic and told the story in a unique way.

They may not make as much sense out of context but here are a few of my favorite passages - favorite for the writing, not necessarily the ideas:

"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.  Unhappiness loves company.  Unhappiness cant stand silence - especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

"But sometimes I couldn't help but think that it was all much simpler than that, that Babette had merely signed up for something, for a life at the side of a successful politician, and that it would have been a waste of all the time she'd invested to stop now - the way you don't put aside a bad book when you're halfway through it.  You finish it reluctantly - that's the way she'd stayed with Serge.  Perhaps the ending would make up for some of it.

"Maybe we don't take that seriously enough.  How young are they.  To the outside world they're suddenly adults because they did something that we, as adults, consider a crime.  But I feel that they've responded to it more like children.  We don't have the right to take away their childhood, simply because,, according to  our norms, as adults, it's a crime you should have to pay for, for the rest of your life."

 Final answer, A-

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