The Dinner by Herman Koch – Book Club Resources

My book club had an excellent discussion about The Dinner yesterday afternoon. As moderator this month, I had done some research and prepared a set of discussion prompts. This book generated one of the best meetings we’ve had, with its interesting structure and commentary on society, family, and politics.

I wasn’t able to find many resources for book clubs online for this novel, so decided to share my outline and some links to reviews and commentary here. I have edited my notes to make them more user-friendly. Resources are listed at the end. A PDF of the discussion questions can be downloaded here.

The Dinner by Herman Koch – Book Club Discussion Starters

Without saying why, how would your rate this book on a scale of 1 to 10?

(Our club often asks members to rate a book at the beginning and end of each meeting. Some interesting shifts occur after members have had a chance to discuss a work.)

Structure

  • The author structured the book around a dinner, but used flashbacks to tell the story. Did this work for you?
  • How did you feel about the narrator at the beginning of the novel? At the end? When did you realize that he was unreliable?

The Story

  • Do you need to like the characters in order to like a book?  How did you feel about the main characters in this novel?
  • How did you feel about the reveal of the narrators genetic disorder?

Morality

  • Were you surprised by how far the parents were willing to go to protect their children? Why do you think they did that? What would you do in similar circumstances?
  • To what extent can psychological factors mitigate criminality? What about those who elect not to take medication?

Society

  • What does the restaurant setting say about the society in which the novel is set?
  • Tolerance and moral superiority: Discuss the adoption of Beau/Faso and subsequent narrative about him
  • What, if anything, does the particular crime say about society, youth, or anything else?
  • What commentary does the novel make about today’s political system?

Other

Why did you rate the book the way you did at the beginning of the discussion and would you change your rating now?

Online Resources (a selection)

  1. Online interview with Herman Koch in The Globe and Mail (Canada). March 2013
  2. Review of The Dinner by Claire Messud in the New York Times. (March 2013
  3. Review in The Telegraph. (August 2012)
  4. Review in The Guardian. (July 2012)
  5. Review in The Independent (July 2012)
  6. Bios of Herman Koch (Wikipedia, Dutch Foundation for Literature, HKs homepage (in Dutch))

The Dinner has been adapted for the theatre (2012) and made into a film (2013), both in Dutch. Cate Blanchett will make her directorial debut in an American film of the novel.

4 thoughts on “The Dinner by Herman Koch – Book Club Resources

  1. The Dinner by Herman Koch sent shivers down my spine. Was a bit of a haul getting through the first 70 or so pages I must admit but the author teased us with his adroit character building of the 4 diners; when the reason for the dinner became apparent I felt the book read like a roller coaster ride-the thrill of the crime, the intense parental reactions and “unconditional love?” Great read-I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

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