The Dinner Herman Koch

August 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Book Club Ideas, Great for Book Clubs, Middle Weight Fiction, The Dinner | 6 Comments

‘The Dinner’ Herman Koch published by Atlantic books


The international bestseller ‘The Dinner’ is the talk of the town at the moment. An interesting set up of four characters, two brothers one a retired teacher the other a successful politician and their wives, who have come to dinner to discuss their children and a very serious shared problem. Koch is obviously a talented writer who structures his story on the four courses of dinner served to the couples in this very high-end Amsterdam restaurant. It laughs at contemporary cuisine, capricious parenting and upper middle class moonshine and does this well. ‘ I took the check from the saucer and looked at the total. I wont go into all the things you could do with a sum of money like that…And I won’t mention the figure itself, the kind of sum that would make you bust out laughing. Which is precisely what I did.’

Through the main character, Paul Lohaman’s narration it is clear early on there are serious familial tensions and very fundamentally different core value systems at play with each couple; ‘…it is surprising and amazing to behold; how my brother the oaf: the lumpen boor …the easily bored dullard whose eyes start to wander at every subject that doesn’t have to do with him, how this brother of mine on a podium and in the spotlights and on TV literally begins to shine.’

Paul Lohman’s narration reveals very unsettling ideas and opinions and the reader begins to thoroughly dislike this character which is fine. However at an odd pace and before perhaps the novel has earned the right to the story descends into a very dark and nasty place. With violent acts and thoughts pervading and coming through with disturbingly far right and ultra conservative smugness. This Koch does very well and it is satisfying to intensely dislike characters and every step they take. However it feels like Koch is pointing his finger at something both malignant and tangible in society that he really wants us to take note of, that we can feel is there, but he hasn’t gotten to the core of it not like ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ did or how ‘American Psycho’ did.

Perhaps it is because this book is highly readable that is has become such a bestseller. Perhaps in our busy lives we want a novel that points at our serious sociological problems but is easy and quick to digest. If this is true then ‘The Dinner’ delivers however dealing with such large scale issues too superficially in a novel can leave a reader underwhelmed.

Haiku; A criminal act, does not come out of nowhere, what is to be done? Continue Reading The Dinner Herman Koch…

When is a book review any use?

November 13, 2012 at 11:29 am | Posted in Book Club Ideas, Literary Academy | 1 Comment

It seems of late that a lot of reviews of newly released fiction are over enthusiastic and vague leading readers in search of a compelling and original read astray.

Big literary figures comments appear on the backs of new novels celebrating fictional triumphs the like of which we have never seen before but often these claims turn out not to be true.

Clever marketing can lead readers astray and with an explosion of debut authors and a sea of fiction how can we pick a book that suits us?
While choosing a book can always be a risk, especially if the author is new, here is  Sarah’s Books list of ways to reduce this risk!

1. Trust yourself and follow your interests: no matter how attractive a book is or how compelling the marketing drive, if you’re not interested in political crime/vampires/chic lit/historical fiction you will not enjoy the book!

2. Take note of the publisher on the spine of the books you like. A favourite publisher of mine is Bloomsbury I know they are purveyors of fine interesting fiction that suits me.

3. Stick with reviewers that you trust. E.g The Guardian newspaper reviews and Eileen Battersby’s recommendations rarely let me down as I like their taste.

4. Get to know the booksellers in your local bookshop. They will be the most discerning and well read people and can make individual recommendations just for you.

5. If your local bookshop has a blog or does book reviews use them.

Bookclubs look at the characters…

March 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Book Club Ideas | Leave a comment
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Look at the characters


1.       Characterisation- is it done well? The more a reader knows a character the increased chance for success there is for character and plot development.

2.       Many novels now focus on characters rather than plot developments as a literary technique to drive novels – does the novel you’re reading do this?

3.       If a character is underdeveloped the author may lean too heavily on stereotypes and archetypes, this is lazy writing, if a book is not holding your interest there is probably a reason for this, examine the characters.

4.       A rich character can be iconic and by virtue can refer to a different era, location, ideology, way of life, value system etc.

5.       How do you enjoy getting to know a character by being told through the narrative what they are like or seeing how a character behaves and develops in different situations?

Read a bit more into it……..

March 18, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Book Club Ideas | Leave a comment
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Getting started; five things to look for in a book

1.       An original idea.

2.       Always ask yourself if a story is interesting or saying something new.

3.       ‘Show don’t tell writing’. Great authors sentences won’t tell you anything but will evoke, implicate, imply, hint at, stimulate and suggest.

4.       Look at how the plot being moved along. Is it moved by the characters, by the narrative, by the writing style or something else….and does this work?

5.       Is there a central theme? If there is take a look at it and see if it is strong enough to carry the whole story? Is it sufficiently researched?

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