The GIST: Two brothers are out to dinner with their wives at a tony restaurant in Amsterdam. One is a well-known politician, the other a teacher. The fussy, expensive meal highlights the differences between them and the worlds they inhabit. Five courses, from aperitif to digestif, provide the pace and structure for the entire novel. After the first course, it becomes obvious that the brothers don’t regularly dine together. It’s also evident that they don’t like each other, and that the evening has an unpleasant purpose. Something dreadful has happened, and they work their way up to the dire topic without much grace. Secrets are revealed with each course, and foreboding builds as a fateful choice must be made before the check arrives.
The WRITING: Clever and suspenseful. Koch’s dialogue is brilliant, defining distinct personalities between the brothers and their wives. Skimpy portions on their plates contrast with the heavy burden hanging over the dinner. Although the event they must discuss is disturbing, the reflections are often hilarious. Sharp social commentary is served up with each course, along with interesting and chilling examinations of contemporary culture. These parents could be sitting at any table in any restaurant, which is the most compelling part of the book. The author forces the reader into an uncomfortable chair at the table, but I sat there, riveted, through the whole meal.
BUY or BORROW? Borrow. I ate up every bit of this drama, but won’t read it again. Wonderful dialogue and humorous tone connected to such heavy topics is quite a feat, so I’m going to check out Koch’s short stories and other novels.
“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.“