I had this preconception that The Dinner was not a good book, and I will tell you why: It is loudly and aggressively touted as the “European Gone Girl.”
Look, I didn’t MIND Gone Girl. It was fine. But stop comparing everything that has printed words to Gone Girl just because you think it will make people buy it. That’s annoying. I already read that book. I don’t want to read that book again.
In the case of THIS book, it has maybe two things in common with Gone Girl. It has twice as many things in common with The Princess Bride.
|That's not one of the things.|
Also, trusted fellow book blogger Rayna was pleased but maybe a little underwhelmed, and other trusted book blogger Australian Kayleigh wasn't whelmed enough to write a review.
So WHY did I willingly step in as the 252nd person on the hold list at the library? Oh, I don’t know . . . can YOU resist a mysterious plot happening when it’s dangled in front of your face like a cheese doodle? WELL THEN, you’re a stronger person than I, sir or madam.
If you say to me, “And then this thing happens . . . but it’s kind of meh,” I will say to you, “WHAT WAS THE THING TELL ME THE THIIIIIIIING.” And no one would in this instance. So I had to read the damn book myself.
And you know what? I quite liked it.
When it starts out, the narrator is this sort of misanthropic, curmudgeonly Dutch guy who is really grumpy about going with his wife to meet this other couple for dinner. So for the first maybe 100 pages, I was imagining a Steve Coogan type snarking in my ear about waitresses with identical ponytails and plates with tiny, fancy food.
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 you have voids. The void here, that part of the plate on which no food at all was present, had clearly been raised to a matter of principle.
It was as though the empty plate was challenging you to say something about it, to go to the open kitchen and demand an explanation. "You wouldn’t even dare!" the plate said, and laughed in your face. (p. 43)
|Just eat your tiny food and shush.|
But this awkward dinner for four progresses through one course after another, and the subject matter—both in the narrator’s head and out loud at the dinner table—takes a turn for the decidedly darker and less comedic. And I liked that development, too.
You see, I have no hesitations about reading a book with no relatable or redeemable characters. And I think maybe that’s what people were keying in to when they started obsessively calling this the “European Gone Girl.” But it’s just not an accurate comparison. If it’s anything, it’s the European American Psycho.
|Only if it's TINY sorbet.|
It has a much more satirical lean than Gone Girl, and it definitely falls heavily into the realm of social commentary—AND other similarities that would be spoilers, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I will say, however, that this is not nearly as uncomfortable as American Psycho. It’s no picnic (except for the part where they eat food and stuff), but there are no starved rats or jumper cables, I assure you.
And as long as we’re comparing things to other things, I would also add that it has a dash of God of Carnage. Because the couples are meeting to discuss some shenanigans their sons have gotten up to, and there is much bickering.
Now . . . can I interest you in a cheese doodle?